Monday, May 31, 2010

"Something More," Said The Clock.

I've been spending a lot of time lately thinking about what makes a perfectly functional and happy person decide to throw their lot in with another person and want to be in a relationship. Not being a big fan of relationships or the institution of commitment myself, I was recently horrified to hear the first audible "tick" of what I previously thought was my busted biological clock. Maybe it's the fact that a close friend with whom I played wing-woman for has now reached past the 1 year anniversary with said boyfriend I did the winging maneuvers for and are vacationing and cohabitating together, or the fact that I'm watching people I grew up with planning for their long-term serious relationships, weddings, and even babies, or maybe it's just the fact that I have done the "I'm so not serious about you I'm going to do everything to prove to you I think this is a lark and self-sabotage this whole state of affairs" thing for the past 5 years, and now with a landmark birthday approaching I'm realizing I should be acting as old as I'm getting and I'm ready to give it a rest for awhile. Whatever the reason, the ending thought remains the same: Scary.

I think as graduates of first grade, we can all agree on the fact that 1 + 1= 2. So why, then, do proponents of love and the Hallmark company seem so hell-bent on convincing us that two people in a relationship are one entity?

I've found myself wondering where my extremely colorful past fits in with my new desires. What about all of a woman's past relationships? Are they now halves? What happens after the union, no matter what sort it was, how serious or how tenuous it was, is gone? How can anyone be expected to deal with so much continuous disappointment? Are we trying to be martyrs, or can we just not get out of our own way? As long as there are women, there will always be women who fall for the wrong guy. Women with a predilection for the Bad Boys. Women who have convinced themselves that if she just loses that last 5 pounds, if she never says "no", if she can change her inner desires to be less demanding and more like him, he will somehow realize that she is perfect, just perfect, for him. These are also the same women who often end up finding just the sort of man who is not perfect for them. (Guilty as charged.) Usually, if anything, I'm over-confident. Most of the time, I am pretty sure I could rule the world single-handed if all the nation's leaders suddenly all came down with a deadly infectious disease at a U.N meeting and keeled over. But for some reason, when it comes to men, all bets are off. Maybe it's because women really have no idea, past a good steak and a blowjob, what men really want. Maybe, if they talked about it, like women have a tendency to do (myself not included here, as I would usually rather extract my own wisdom teeth sans Percocet than talk about my feelings), we could all be a lot more clear and a lot less confused and apt to spend an inordinate amount of time and energy on someone, just to realize that they are never going to change. At least, not for us.

Which brings us to why men like some women and not others. Frankly, I cannot understand what anyone sees in me. And I am not being self-depreciating here. At times, I want a divorce from myself. I have altogether too many flaws and personality quirks to be consider either easy to live with, enjoyable, or sane. When I see a guy look at me like he adores me, I want to shake him and ask, "WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? DO YOU ENJOY BEING RUN RAGGED? BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT I DO!" Because no matter how crazy women can get at men and relationships and love and how delusional we can make ourselves, there is that-- that ONE MOMENT-- where you watch him watching you, and you are hit over the head with it like a two-by-four that he likes you. Not, "I think you're entertaining" likes you. Not, "I'm imagining you naked right now" likes you. But that often sought-after and rarely found moment where the guard goes completely down behind his eyes and you catch that look and instead of what most men would assume, you do not go "There is the answer to all my dreams and desires!" but instead think, "OH. SHIT. That's real."

While I may make a good friend and a fun time, I really cannot see what would make me captivating to a member of the opposite sex. Maybe this is a great example of why love and infatuation are random and women need to stop comparing themselves to other women and asking "Why her, and not me?" Maybe there is no reason. There are other people out there, other women and other men, who are not going to demand a single thing from you, but in the long run, are they really the sort of person you want to be with? Shouldn't you want to be with someone who wants you to be the best you possible? I'm apt to believe this, especially when faced the with realization that despite all my bullshit, there are people out there with a soft-spot for me a mile wide. That would be the only explanation. But the problem with a connection like that with someone else is despite all of your warning signs and pros and cons lists, you're loathe to let them go. It's not, believe me, that you are so unlovable that you will never find someone else who will look at you that way again or make you feel the same. It's just that nothing will ever be exactly like that connection, and that connection may just be the one that you need, questions, hard work, disappointment, and all.

I'm getting old enough to realize that despite my parent's fairy tale, love is not easy. Loving someone, in fact, is one of the hardest things in the world, because loving who they really are, and not who you'd like them to be, requires a nearly Gandhi sense of acceptance. And there are times-- when the trash is spewing forth from the garbage can because it hasn't been taken out in over two weeks, when he forgets meeting with you for the second time in a week, when their tongue is in someone else's mouth-- that love and acceptance seem damn near impossible. And that's the hardest part-- keeping that love despite all of someone's faults. I'm tempted to say that we fall for who we do because they're difficult. It's said that nothing worth having is even gotten easily, and I think we'd become more quickly bored if it were so easy and simple. And when we get bored is when we hop onto the next slowly passing train, or person.

"A human's desire to mate, the pair up, to be part of a couple, will never change. But the way we go about it, how badly we need it, what we are willing to sacrifice for it, most definitely does" (Liz Tuccillo, intro to her novel, "How To Be Single"). That's the problem: what two people want is rarely the same thing. How people manage to "work it out" is beyond me. I used to be a status-quo girl. Most days, I still am. I'm content to share a bed, share some time, share a few meals, and otherwise, be on my own. I don't demand much, time- and commitment-wise. A friend of mine who just got out of a three-year relationship asked me how I do it, how I maintain my life when trying to juggle it with someone else's. The real answer to this, and the answer that is not quite the most flattering in the world in regards to the whole "selflessness" item, is that even when I'm in a relationship, my mentality is still that of a Single Girl. I can't separate the Independent Me from the Someone's Girl Me. I've lived far too much of my life being my own girl that I don't think I can, or would, ever want to lose that part of me.

I'll admit, some of it may also be the fact that I do not have a stellar retention rate, either for keeping relationships, keeping an interest in one man, or actually doing things By The Book: dating, commitment, relationship, a satisfactory amount of time, clean break-up. I tend to operate outside of the lines of public dating decency. That's just the way my stripes run. I am tempted to say, "It's not long long you were with someone that matters; it's the effort you put in," but then again, I have also never stayed with one person any longer than six months. As Tuccillo writes, "I have dates, I have flings, I have "situations." But I don't have men, one after another, whom I cart around as my boyfriend, and then break up with for some reason or another and say later to my friends "What was I thinking?"" (Tuccillo, 197).

But the more I see of the world and of other people, the girl who used to be content to sit on your sofa and order in starts to wonder, "Is there more than this?"

I'm tempted to say that there has to be. I'm tempted to say that despite people's fundamental differences, there is something that is akin to the look in someone's eye that makes them willing to stretch who they are and what they can do for someone else. I'm tempted to say that, because if I don't, I'm pretty much admitting defeat right here and right now. I'm also tempted to say it because we cannot live with all of our bullshit intact for the rest of our lives. We're all pretty ridiculous people who start out one way, and gradually change because of our love for someone else that is not ourselves. That is the only way we're ever going to get better than we are this very second. One day, there is going to be a guy who will look at me and say, "I'm not trying to clip your wings, so just fucking stand still with me for awhile more than a month or 6 months. It's not so horrible. If you keep trying to run, I'm just going to let you go." And if I care about him as much as I should, that will be the day that I should get smart enough to slow my roll and start thinking about someone other than just myself. And if I don't, or if you don't, then we really are all just helpless fools when it comes to love. So best of luck.


Love and Disgust-- A Variation on Love and War.

Awhile ago, I was sitting in my Women in 20th Century Fiction class in Florence while we discussed the disgust of Penelope's emotions for Odysseus in Louise Gluck' and Margaret Atwood's re-tellings of the Odyssey. (Links to said works are under the author's names above if you're interested.) I was minding my own business, just sitting there and listening, probably doodling in the margins of my notebook as I am apt to do to pass time, when the thought hit me like a ton of unequivocal bricks-- "I don't want to end up despising you like Penelope despised Odysseus."

Women are, by nature and design, fickle creatures. We're hormonal and moody and we expect all together too much from life (see "Committmentstein: A Monster of Our Own Making" for proof of this). But whoever said, "All's fair in love and war," was obviously not a woman.

True, love and hate are inevitably intertwined emotions, but in every relationship, there comes a time where it's more one than the other. The other day, I was talking to a friend of mine who has been in a serious, committed relationship for the past year. "It's fine," she said. "It's business as usual. But that's the problem. The romance is gone and I'm starting to get disenchanted."

Disenchanted, disgusted, despised, dismayed, disappointed--doomed-- all "D" words that cane describe the complex flow of emotions in a woman from the starting point of "You're my favorite person on Earth" to "What the fuck has happened to you?"

Coming back home was nerve-wracking. It's not a fun place to be in. I'm passive-aggressive by nature, though I hate fighting, but can't keep my mouth shut when it comes to expressing my displeasure. This may seem like a good thing, but when all that comes out lately is nagging, even I start to get sick of hearing it. What changed? Why can't you just follow through with things? As someone who has never really tried to make a solid go at things, I know this is a massive case of pot and kettle, but I can't help but wondering, when does being selfless turn into being selfish? When is it not about you and what you want anymore, and when does it become about me and what I want?

I've got some good self-destructive tendencies. Or, maybe if they're so predominant, they're not tendencies anymore, but rather, habits. But looking back through all my past trainwrecks of relationships doesn't make the fact that at 16 I could do exactly what I needed to any less poignant. What did I know then that I either don’t know now or can’t do? What we’ve been through changes us—the second time around, we tend to get more lenient about situations. It can be better, and it can be worse. I’ve been in both good and bad relationships. I’ve been in both physically and emotionally abusive relationships, and I’ve also been in relationships I couldn’t have cared less about and didn’t put any work or time into, taking the spoiled brat approach to love. But a relationship is not like a book. You can’t just put it down, walk away, and expect to be able to pick it up where you left off, no changes. As Penelope found when Odysseus returned, what can happen in the space of time between the leaving and the returning is where all the stories really were. Two people are like the covers of a book-- there can be lots of history and words between them. It can be a happy story, a sad story, or it can be an unfinished story.

What I've realized is that getting out of a relationship is not so much like parting as it is about shedding a man like layers. And as with onion, ogres, and clothing, some layers, no matter how hot and sweaty they make you, you just want to keep. Some people get so far under your skin that they become part of your make-up-- a smell that you'd know anywhere, a taste in your mouth that won't go away. So I guess I shouldn't bitch if it's my own decision. But what happens when all that is tangible is the questions? It's what I want, but I don't know if it's what I need.


Everything A Girl Could Possibly Need

No, I have not seen SATC2 yet. I thought I’d get that out of the way. And yes, there are some people I enjoy far more when they're naked.

You may like to think that I have lots and lots of sex and the glamorous Vermont equivalent (HA. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!) of a Sex and the City lifestyle, but besides the inordinate amount of shoes and what will probably become a large money-management problem and lots of debt, it’s not so exciting. I only wish I were having as much sex as is commonly thought. I’ve only ever brought one guy home to my apartment. Whether this is the fact that I also treat dating as a kind of real estate viewing opportunity or if I just want to get out my own space and not have to clean, I don’t know, but the point remains: I can be a secretive little fucker. That, and I also don’t really want to have to explain the life-size cutout of the Joker in the corner.

Anyway, because I really have nothing to give you today vis-à-vis SATC2, I’m giving these little caveats, these bon mots, instead and hoping that you're appeased. Practice driving in heels or pouring a beer while I desperately try to come up with some better content, please.

-Insomnia? Orgasm. One will send you off to sleep gently like a baby; two will knock you out like horse tranquilizers. It relieves tension and stress and takes your mind off of everything else that could be keeping you awake.

-Driving a standard in heels? Rest the tip of your left heel so that it makes a V-angle with the floorboard near the clutch. That way, the stress when you decompress the clutch is on the heel, just like it is when you're walking, and it gives you better leverage.

-How to look like you belong anywhere: If you know what sort of event you’ll be at beforehand, it helps you in choosing the right attire. If you have no idea, dressing nicer than many be needed is preferable. Other than that, confidence is the name of the game. Engage in conversation, but not too much. People will notice if you’re the life of the party and start to ask questions, as in Wedding Crashers syndrome. If you sense someone is about to ask you a personal question, cut them to the chase and either compliment them or ask them a question. It will throw them off.

-Make friends with his roommates now so they’re more tolerable to your loud moaning later. Homemade brownies or cookies usually do the trick. Think of it as a very intimate and slightly bribing host’s gift.

-Get out of a ticket for speeding. This works with both male and female officers. Say, “I’m so sorry, and this is so embarrassing, but it’s that time of the month, and I think I sprung a leak. I really need to get to a bathroom.” If you’re in a non-populated area, ask for the location of the nearest public restroom. Look antsy and do the child bathroom squirm while saying this, and it’s very convincing. Being able to blush on command helps, too.

-For Guys: Special Teams. Never, ever, flat-out admit to a girl that she is your second hitter. That’s like telling her she’s only good enough to eat someone else’s leftovers. A good girl would never tell you if she were playing the field around you, and never forget—if she’s not on your starting line, she probably knows it and can always find someone else who will be more than willing to put her on theirs. As Franz Ferdinand summed it up, "Sometimes, I say stupid things that I think; well, I mean, I-- sometimes, I say the stupidest things, because I never wonder how the girl feels." All I can say is, think what it is about the girl that you’re saying this to that you like, because you may have to do without it after telling her this.

-Become the best damn barmaid that you can be. Open the bottle or can. Don't spill it-- if you do, your career is over already. Touch the rim of your pint glass, chilled stein, or SippyCup so that it is resting under one of the grooves that the bottle's cap screwed on, or along the under-ridge at the top of a can at an obtuse angle-- i.e: if the bottle or can were the hour hand on a clock, it would be around 5, and the glass you're pouring into would be around 8. Slowly tilt the bottom of your bottle or can up slightly as you pour so that the beer runs down the side of the glass, not directly to the bottle. (If you let it run directly to the bottom, as I did the first time I poured beer for an ex at 16, all you will get is shit-tons of head. While normally not a bad thing, in the beer world this is a very bad thing.) Go slow while pouring. While you may be chugging it later, there is no race about the pouring. Let it oxidize nicely so that when you finally do get down to the bottom quarter of the bottle or can and start to pull the glass you're pouring into from the 8 to the 6 or straight-up position, there's about half an inch of nice head. Or, you can skip all that and do what I do-- be a Bottle Girl.

-When asking for a favor, widen your eyes and blink once or twice. It works WONDERS. Also, leading in with something like knowing how busy someone is is an instant guilt-trip, and leaves them room to see that you acknowledge how busy they are, so doing this one little thing would be SO GREAT.

Others may pop up later, but I'm lazy and hungover right now. Happy Memorial Day-- make sure to thank all the veterans in your life. Love you, Dad! And speaking of glamorous life in Burlington, PMG Public Relations was recently featured as a quote in Cosmopolitan, and a study done by St. Mike’s students was used in a Glamour article. Burlington is getting to be a happening place. Hey, publications—I’M RIGHT HERE, AND I’LL WHORE MY WRITING OUT FOR THE RIGHT PIECE AND THE RIGHT PRICE. Move-in day: t-minus 8 days.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hey, You Wanna Blog?

Well, it IS a four-letter word. For shits and giggles, you can even replace the word "blog" with "fuck" in this post and see where it gets you. Just, you know, if you don't want to take this seriously.

About a week ago, I was chatting with a friend of mine who recently graduated in the same major that I'm going to be-- Professional Writing. We were discussing how newly-minted grads can get their writing out when he brought my blog up, asking me how I found enough time to write so much, citing the fact that I obviously loved doing so. It wasn't so much of a time commitment thing, I told him. I can knock a post off anywhere between 45 minutes and 2 hours, depending on the length and if the subject matter needs any researching. I'm a first-draft-is-the-best-draft and quick-editing sort of girl. It's more about just being eternally curious about things.

I started blogging back in high school. Between my short attention span, lack of interesting content, experience, life subject matter, and being in "too small of a space," it failed. Also paramount was probably also the fact that I still thought I was bound to be a Great American Fiction Novelist, a fact that I now get a really good laugh out of, being the queen of short, question-driven format. I got back into it last summer, when, unemployed and in an unhappy relationship, I figured it would give me something to do, and a way to make pocket change. (Never underestimate the power of quarters in a coin-op laundry apartment dweller's life.)

Lately, I've been getting a lot of great feedback from readers, either from people whom I consider excellent writers themselves telling me I've got a good thing going, or from relative newbies asking for blogging advice and how to keep up the song and dance routine and make it into something showy. I've been kicking the following spiel around for awhile, ever since a professor last year fall mentioned he may have a class he'd like me to talk about blogging to, and then, again last semester, when an online class I was taking for my major challenged us all to create and maintain a blog as an integral part of our soon-to-be profession. I was a little saddened, I'll admit, when the class didn't seem to grasp the idea of having a blog. Granted, mine was already well underway, and in fact, an email had to be sent to my professor explaining that for professionalism's sake, I would not be posting any of my non-content related class assignments on SATCG. But when it became clear that not many people in our class of 12 were embracing the blog, it flabbergasted me. I really don't get the recalcitrance that some writers have about blogging. I mean, I know they're not for everyone, and there will always be someone who likes getting rejection letters from The Atlantic and The New Yorker more than publishing the "easy way." But even Hank Moody deigned to blog, for chissake. It's just easy. It doesn't take itself too seriously. It's a great starting spot. A blog URL is a great thing for a writer to include on their business card to hand to potential editors or agents or publishers to visit and get an idea of what you do. Eventually, a blog even gives you material to ship off to publications. (My Sexual Anthropologist's Portfolio is an example of this, and maybe one of these days I'll actually realize the fact that I graduate in under a year and need a steady and reasonably well-paying job and start sending things out.)

That being said, the following are things that every blogger really needs to carefully consider before or during their blogging experience. I'm a big fan of doing things and doing things as best I can, and nearly one year into blogging at SATCG, with 47 followers, a total of nearly 20,000 page hits, and almost my first check from AdSense on its way, this is the best blogging advice I can give you:

-Before you start writing, ask yourself-- What are you passionate about? It doesn't have to be a topic you can discuss ad nauseum-- it just has to be something you can run with. Do you even like to write? Ask yourself what do you like to write about, and how do you like to write about it? Do you take a more scholastic tone naturally, or a more conversational one? Do you tend to form essays with theses and answers backed up by research, or does free-form poetry suit you more? Some people keep blog diaries. Some people have news blogs. You need to be sure you're writing something thematic in a way that you'll be able to call forth any time you want to.

-Who you target your blog to makes a huge difference. gets between 80 and 200 hits a day, depending on recent posting frequency, subject matter, and timing. It is mostly unadvertised, mainly relying on my friends and word-of-mouth to spread. I got really lucky early on and was featured on Smart, Pretty and Awkward by the incomparable Molly, which helped my readership exponentially. My friends have also gone above and beyond the call of duty, posting the blog to StumbleUpon and linking it to their own blogs. Obviously, a blog based around the premise of a Sex and the City-esque column is going to attract mostly young women, but I was surprised at the diversity of my readership. Some are from as far away as Australia, Japan, and the Netherlands. Others are from as close as Albany, NY, to across the U.S. Some follow for the fashion, some for the relationship advice, some for the straight-forward girl talk, some for the salacious gossip. I also have quite the contingency of male readers, and I think they're all perfect dolls and will make some woman very lucky, if they haven't already (there is a shout-out to my professors). The name probably gets me a few cheap hits, too, but I hope they maybe stay and read a post or two and learn something.

(My other creative-writing blog, Juxtaposition, mainly attracts stragglers, a few die-hard readers that I love to pieces, and my mother. Probably because posting there is sporadic at best, experimental by nature, and takes a real particular taste to handle.)

-Some people blog once a day. Some people blog or Tweet 5 times a day. Some once a week. Some once a month. I blog when I have something to say. It is my soapbox. The point is, you need to figure out what a realistic posting schedule is for you, and STICK TO IT. Realize that if you have readers, you have people that want to read new content, not what you posted two weeks ago. Or a month ago. People are needy. Readers are devoted and needy and can only re-read something so many times, even it's your most stunning material. If there is constantly nothing new, they're going to stop coming back. If there is something constantly new, as you know, curiosity killed the cat, but it also made the blog traffic numbers soar. That is how you build your readership and blog traffic-- by blogging frequently. In the most simple way I can put it, posting = success. Do know that frequency of posts means more interest, better site traffic, and more money.

Oh, did I say money?

-Most people are shocked to find out that I make money on my blog. Yes, it's percentages of cents for every visit and more for every clicked ad from Google AdSense, but it's money all the same. And I make it doing nothing other than what I love and what I want to write about, and just whoring out about an inch and a half by five inches of spare space on my page. Apparently, in the real world, this is the ideal gig for a writer. It may be baby-steps and just dollars and cents right now, but I'm told that this model of write and get paid is something like what we writers should inspire to in the bigger picture. Tim Brookes also has some great money-making ideas for your blog in his article, "Equally Worthless?", as well as some um, familiar subject matter and characters. And whatever your motives are coming here, you're supporting me, so thank you. When my blog dropped on campus and shit got hairy, other than the support of my friends, knowing that I was making some nice dough off of all the site traffic kept me going. And what do you know? Life's good now.

-Speaking of things getting a little crazy, how many of you would dare to blog about your friends? People on campus? Your boyfriend or girlfriend or the person you've been trying to wrangle into bed with you for the past month? For awhile after the Great Blogging Debacle of 2009, I was unsure of how, exactly, one goes about a sex and relationship blog without verbally lambasting people or naming very transparent nicknames. Then I grew up, got smart, and decided to try skipping intimate details in exchange for broad strokes of thought and pointed questions and posts based around things that were happening in my life. Though it was a massive learning experience, it made me a much better, and much more interesting and people-friendly, blogger. (Also, this is a huge mea culpa for that debacle right now.) How many of you would blog about hot button issues, the things that other people don't want to touch because of controversy? And I don't mean just politics or religion, here. I come under fire regularly from my own mother for blogging about "trashy" material. But like I tell her, excuse me, but I can't be the only one wondering why women seem to give and not receive oral as regularly as men do. There has to be SOMEONE else out there wondering the same thing that just doesn't have the guts to come straight out and ask about it.

-This brings up another huge issue to consider: Is your blog going to be private, or open? A private blog means that only the people you invite can view your content. An open blog means that the whole wide internet world can knock down your URL's door. For fellow writers, I really don't see what you could ever gain from having a private blog, when having an open one is the best way to get your writing published and out into the world for free, no agents or publications needed. Take chances. Defending yourself and your writing is one of the most fundamental things you can learn to do as a writer. Stephen Stills once said something that I think I have quoted on numerous occasions on this blog-- "There are three things men can do with women: love them, suffer for them, or turn them into literature." And as we're quasi-feminist here, I think women should be allowed to do the same.

-I cannot stress this enough: FOLLOW OTHER BLOGS. Start an RSS feed either here on Blogger, on Wordpress, on whatever you want to, but read other blogs with similar content to yours. Not only does this keep you in touch with what is going on and what has already been written on the subjects you're interested in, it's a great way to get "soft news" and to see what people want to know more about. I follow over 50 blogs. And blog etiquette says that if someone follows your blog, you should check theirs out, too, and if it doesn't seem like something totally outside of your interests, follow theirs. This is a great way to build a follower base, and I really wish more people would do this.

-Mesh your blog with your other writing endeavors and projects. This will make multi-tasking, or rather, re-using content, much easier. When I was writing for Moss on the Moon and the Champlain Current, some of what I published on hard copy worked great as an easy, pre-written filler post here, no extra work or writing necessary. I'd encourage you to pick up writing projects outside of your blog to supplement both your skills and your content bank-- if you're still in college, writing for your school newspaper or a campus publication is a great place to start. Also, never underestimate the ability for class content to be created of a similar theme to your blog. Last semester, I wrote two 8-page papers for Women in 20th Century Fiction on Penelope and Odysseus's relationship in the Odyssey, and a paper for Renaissance Theory of Love on what Renaissance philosopher's theories and modern women's magazines have in common in regards to views on love, got two As, and am probably going to do some editing to shorten and tighten them up and post them here. If you're already a young professional, find writing competitions in your area and try to make a quick buck while you're at it; see if projects at work could overlap with your blog.

I hope that something in there got stuck with you to chew over-- if not, I've totally failed my goal. In the meantime, if you have any other questions or noticed topics about blogging that weren't covered, drop me a line, and I'll do my best to fill in the holes. Ciao-ciao until next time.

...And hey, DO you want to blog?


Monday, May 24, 2010

Beauty Or The Beast?

Women, I think, more than men, tend to be territorial. While men may have classically been the hunters and warriors, you better bet that while the women stayed home and cleaned cave, sweet cave and cooked and watched the hairy little kids that they had to protect their fair share from the saber-tooth tigers of lore. In fact, in a poll taken asking who tends to be more territorial, men or women, 7 out of 10 answered in the affirmative for women, in one case, with the answer "...Women are like tigers guarding their kill." And so, the vestigial feeling remains in all women-- but what happens when the instinct in women is raised by another woman? While half of us is groomed from the cradle to be sugar and spice and everything nice and sweet, the other half is still thinking, "Bitch, get close enough, and I will sink my teeth as far as they can get into your eyes like grapes."

Is this really any surprise? In 2003, the FBI conducted a statistics report which showed that assault by women had risen 41% since 1992, in contrast to a 4.3% increase among boys. I myself, if this blog's content is any proof, am much more of a lover than a fighter, and yet, I'm not ashamed to admit that around the same time as this census, I was involved in two locker room fights in high school. And won. And if girls are willing to fight like cats and dogs over things like a bathroom stall to change in before gym class, how driven do you think we really are to fight over things we really want? Grown-ass women come to tooth and claw over discount Prada at sample sales in the sterile and soothing atmosphere of Barney's. And that's just Prada.

Like the sort of marks that wild animals leave to assert their presence in nature, women leave subtle clues for other women to see when they're marking out their territory. (Guys, prepare to have the lid blown way off.) Facebook provides a sort of "soft" surface to scratch on-- among especially younger girls and women, it provides a place to publicly stake out your claim. Women may post numerous items on a guy's page to send off a "taken" message to other women, or to undermine others. If you really want to get all scientific about it, check out the timestamps on recurring poster's entries. Chances are, if there's a man-stomping-ground fight brewing, there will be a rapid retaliation time between two women's messages on one wall. She posted yesterday? The other will post today. It's a not-so-silent waiting game until one gives up or gives in. Or, just resorts to less public forms of communication.

Women, unlike men, are tactile creatures. We touch things to find out more about them. Watch a woman shop, and you'll soon realize this. In person, women tend to stake out their interest the way they know best-- through touch. If another woman is constantly putting her hands on the arm or shoulder or back of a man, she might as well have branded "TAKEN!" across his forehead for other women to read. Here is a classic example of this, along with some advice for women how to handle a situation like this. The number one response? Be nice, and if that doesn't work, just walk away.

Listen for name-dropping. Does someone's name in particular keep coming up? Bingo. People naturally want to talk about what they're excited about. Is someone in the conversation coming back with responses like, "Oh, that's so funny-- Andre went to Mexico for vacation last year, too!" Five minutes later, it'll be, "Well, the other day, Andre said..." Women, as you may have noticed, cannot keep our traps shut. So if we can talk about you, we will. And if we can talk about you in context with other people so that they know that we're all over your shit? Even better. Let the gossip begin.

And then there's just women's intuition. We know when someone's creepin'. We usually can sniff out pretty quickly who they're creepin' with. It's not like we're "snooping" or "being nosey"-- the best way that I can explain it is that most women have the ability to look at another woman and go, "Huh. Yup. She's totally his type, and you know what? She's been coming around a lot more recently. Hmm. Gotcha." If you really want to see how and what women think of Other Women, I highly suggest the movie "The Women" (the 2008 version). Women just know other women. We get them in the way that you guys generally tend to understand anything that has a motor. We know what she means when she says cryptic things to her friends. We know when she's trying to make us jealous. We know why she is taking 500 photos of you and her, or the life around you and her. And we know what those song lyrics really mean. In an ideal world, you'd be able to use the two women that you're seeing to understand the other, because chances are, they know each other far better than you do. In this world, unless you have huge vat of mud and a large inflatable pool on hand-- don't.

There's ladies, and then there's not-so ladies. So how does a "lady" deal with a situation without her fists?

Girls are taught from an early age to assert themselves when they feel like they're being pushed around, and this is a lesson that sticks for both emotional and physical pushing and shoving, as well as leads to the phenomenon of cat-fights. The Catch-22 is this: If you actually assert yourself and your emotions and express your displeasure by saying something like, "Hey, I know what you're doing to me, and I don't like it and the way it makes me feel, AT ALL," you're in jeopardy as coming off as "needy," "overbearing," "controlling," "trying to change" someone, and yes, my favorite-- "a crazy bitch." However, this is the way that your mother and your public school education taught you how to communicate in. It's unfortunate that some men and other women couldn't give less of a fuck that approaching a problem head-on and distinctly is not considered the ideal way to communicate. You may be thinking, "What? You're crazy. No way. I want open and honest communication, all the time!" Well. Let's put ourselves in two scenarios, shall we?

Scenario One: You're a guy, and you've been engaging in some seedy and slightly sleazy behavior behind the back of a girl who you consider normally very sweet. But hey, whatever, right? Until one afternoon when she looks you dead in the eye and says, "Look, I like you a lot, and I think we have a pretty good time together, but I know what you're doing, and it makes me feel like shit. Did you ever think about how this makes me feel?" OH SHIT. Caught red-handed. So, what do you do? If you're even a half-way decent guy, you come clean and apologize and actually start doing right by her. But we all know, even in the most contrite individual, part of you is going "BITCH. You ruined all my good fun. And because of what? Feelings? Puh-lease. There are wild oats to be sown!" Because believe it or not, women have that same thought-process, too.

Which brings us to scenario two: You're another female roommate or coworker, when, one morning, your other female roomie/coworker approaches you and says, "Look, I love sharing meals with you, but I've noticed recently that you aren't contributing to the food supply, and, in fact, are eating some of mine. I wouldn't mind so much, but money's a little tight for me right now, and it's hard to do the grocery shopping for one person, let alone two." This is another situation where as the equal-opportunity snacker, you know you're to blame, but at the same time, you can't help but feeling a little self-righteous. So you generally come back with something like this as a retort: "Sorry, but I didn't see your name on that food." And then, for good measure, add in, "And could you clean your expired food out of the fridge? It's taking up space." Passive-aggressive female defense at its best.

Basically, with this first option, you're trying to assert yourself the best way you know how, but unfortunately, our society has stressed the ideal of the "sweet" girl to the point where many women are torn between the hard choice of feeling like if they express themselves, they'll lose a close relationship, or if they don't, they'll get continually steam-rolled. So, what to do? Pick another option?

Then there's the ultimatum-- "You can't have it both ways-- choose." Not a favorite. It backs people into corners and makes them do the one thing that all the previous behavior has shown an aversion to-- picking one option and sticking with it. Feminists would tell you ultimatums are an enlightened woman's friend. Men would tell you you're starting to sound like their mother. And women don't listen to ultimatums.

And then there's our third option, otherwise known as "The Girl Next Door." It balances a healthy dose of looking the other way with still being sweet to all involved. AKA: no bitching at him, no sinking your teeth into her eyeballs or fist into her jaw if you meet her, and crying only to your friends and pillow at night. Most men would probably tell you that they prefer this option. Most women, myself included, will tell you it's a recipe for pretty much one thing: an unhappy woman.

There are some people who can raise "The Girl Next Door" approach to kind of a cosmic and Karmic ideal, which involves realizing that The Other Woman is not all to blame, and, in fact, another wounded party involved; that the man in this situation is the one that has orchestrated this all; and that maybe there are reasons for him doing the things he does. There's lots of forgiveness and Zen-ness involved in this approach. I am not quite that good of a person. You can strive for it, but it's hella hard.

So, what is a girl to do if her locker room fighting days are past, and all forms of communication seem to be moot? Will an eloquent "This is how I feel" conversation ever truly give the satisfaction of a good right hook, or are women always doomed to be silent about certain things due to the fears of not being the quintessential Perfect Girl? You may say that you want the truth, but do you really want to handle the repercussions it may have? What do you think? Is there really any way to address these sorts of issues while both being strong yet not being a hard-ass?


Sunday, May 23, 2010

There's Friends, And Then There's Boyfriends.

There are some things in life you can always count on: the infallible ability for Murphy's Law to hit at exactly the worst time; that gas prices will always go up and not down; and that Homer Simpson will never turn down a donut. But in the past week since I've been home from Italy, I've been making new discoveries about the sort of things you can always count on: namely, that while families and S.Os are nice, they will never be able to beat the awe-inspiring, nearly Twilight Zone-esque capabilities that your friends have for being able to figure you out.

While discussing new apartment logistics vis-a-vis the new queen bed, my best friend snorted when I told her, as always, my bed had to be, had to be, had to be located in one of the corners of my room, preferably across the room from the door. "Yeah," Nora replied, "because you always have to sleep pressed up against the wall and curled up in the fetal position. A queen bed is totally wasted on you." What does it say that my friend knows me so well that she can say this completely matter-of-factly, and yet, I have ex-boyfriends and ex-S.O's who I have either spent a fair share of nights and beds with or lived with part-time who would be hard-pressed to tell you this about me in the same way that it is so obvious to my best friend? Nora knows how, exactly, I like to eat my salads, and in fact, puts to test the whole friends-as-soulmates thing with the fact that she eats the light greens, while I only eat the dark. Watching us eat salad is like watching the Cleaver parents share a meal-- she moves her dark green leaves over to me, I fork out my light pieces and stalks to her, a flawlessly enacted Ballet of The Greenery over the dinner table. She has been known to perfectly time lighting as I inhale, knows how I take my coffee, what weather is my favorite, and 101 other little quirks about how I prefer life. It's the little things that she picks up on that mean the most.

As if getting hit with this stunning realization wasn't enough, Nora's mother then walked in and the first thing out of her mouth was, "Look at you with the long hair!" Granted, this is a woman who assured me during my high school bob-cut phase that I was beautiful no matter what, but sometimes, it's the things like noticing a new hairstyle that women really want to be recognized for and complimented on. It's so cliche, but so true. If you don't want to be quite so trite, instead of just saying, "I like your hair," or "Hey, did you get your hair cut? It looks nice," why don't you try making it more personal and saying something like, "I really like your new haircut because it brings our your eyes" or "I love being able to put my hands through your long hair." Give us a specific reason why you notice it or like it. No one is cookie-cutter-- well, no one outside of Stepford or Connecticut. (I joke, I joke...)

My friend Caiti has known me longer than probably anyone except my immediate family. We met in kindergarten over a set of stilts, and have been friends since. Because we have watched each other go through so many year's worth of styles, from bowl-cuts to braces, from pig-tails to driver's permits, from clogs to stilettos, one of our favorite things to do together is bargain-shop. (Or, in Caiti's case, be reasonable while I drop money like a Rockefeller on an unemployed college student's salary.) On our latest installment of Clarendon Chicks vs. T.J Maxx, she watched me as I cooed over a chain-handled black leather purse. "Your style has changed," she told me, absolutely no judgement in her voice. And just as quickly as it used to take her to dig me out the All-American styles that I used to love (but hello, Ralph Lauren, you are still loved), she was offering up new things to suit my bella-Italia leanings. Despite our 17 year relationship (which is BY FAR my longest), Caiti is as flexible with my mercurial changes as a girl could ever ask for. As I am pattern-perfect Gemini who has a hard time remaining the same person from day to day in the first place, Caiti is unflappable and loyal enough to teach men a lesson: although the look and the years might change, the girl inside is still pretty much the same. You can cut or grow hair, change the wrappings and the address, but what attracts you to a person in the first place is still going to be there.

My roommate-come-travel buddy-come-football watching partner-come-personal chef Alli is like my personal bomb-squad between me and the rest of the world, alternately defusing or detonating. When a guy I was seeing fucked up, I had to send her daily email reminders to please not fire off any missives (or missiles) of her own while we worked it out for ourselves. "Mama Lion" was not quite so pleased, but after reassuring her that her Doberman status had not been totally choke-chained, she settled in for quietly resuming to have my back better than anyone else. Maybe it's because we've lived together long enough to finish each other's sentences or know exactly what the other is thinking at a moment, but quicker than anyone, Alli can tell you why I'm angry, what made me upset, and how to make up for it almost faster than I know the answers to those questions myself. Not much of a used asset for men, a girl's confidants like Alli are immeasurable treasure-troves of information of everything from her favorite flower to requested diamond size to why your girlfriend is mad at you, so it would behoove a guy to play nice with her.

When I went back up to Burlington for the first time in 4 months, I was shocked about how warm the reception was in some cases, even though I was technically 2 days late getting there due to the mishap in Zurich. Just as going away for awhile makes you appreciate home more, I think it can also make you appreciate your friendships more and the people in your life. Old coworkers stopped working to chat for 10 or 15 minutes. Friends' boyfriends came to dinner to say hey and welcome me back. I spent hours and multiple meetings in one afternoon and evening catching up with friends who although I would have assumed had had enough of me via Facebook and Skype and international phone calls while I was gone, wanted to spend even more time with me now that I was back in person. I was shocked when friends called me to see what I was up to, if I was bored or just wandering around, or wanted to meet up with them instead of further slogging through the fruitless job market self-prostituting. "Hey, what are you doing?" "Where are you staying?" "The apartment's small, but I've got some floor for you if you need it." "Come over any time!" "Why don't you stay another day?" "Do you want to grab something to eat?" "Why don't we met up again after your dinner?" "Hey, where are you?" "Let me know when you come back next week." Not only did they meet up with me all across Burlington, but they even helped me knock down a few of my must-eats off my American Food I Have Been Yearning For list, and, as we know, like a good man, one of the quickest ways to my heart is through my stomach. I got nearly teary when, down by the dog park, a young couple stopped my friend and I to ask for a light. As I forked over my lighter and he lit his jay while I held his half-mastiff dog, he looked at us and held up the hemp-wrapped joint now merrily burning. "Hey, you want a hit?" And right then was when I knew I was back in Burlington and that this was all real.

The Sex and the City writers once infamously wrote the line, "Maybe our friends are our soulmates and guys are just people we have fun with." While I might argue that it may not always be fun and games with guys, I will agree that our friends are the ones who will always be there, despite now being spread across the country, or, in some cases, the world. Whether they're someone you've had in your life for years or someone you've seen three times since meeting three months ago, there's no denying it-- your friends are your chosen family and your chosen companions. And the best part is, you know they're not just in it for the sex.


Friday, May 21, 2010

Things Men Like

This blogs tends to be filled with a lot of things that women like, or, to be more honest, with things that I like. But as my now-ended Women in 20th Century Fiction class pointed out, there isn't just one sex that inhabits the world as we know it: there are two. Oh, and your Aunt Mildrid.

All kidding aside, I thought it was time that I dedicate some blog space to the things that the less fair and more hairy side in hopes that I can appeal to both male and female readers, just as all the girls who read this blog are so excited when they see things like my "Open Letter To Men" posted. Which is why I hope you guys have all become better boyfriends, brother, friends and lovers since you started reading this. But-- that's a little unfair. What about the things YOU really want to read about? Where's the TV? Where's the action movies? Where's the steak? (Lord knows I've already covered the beer.)

And so, I have gathered together a few things that men enjoy that I've collected from my scant knowledge from my time here on Earth, and put my two-to-ten-cents down on them:

-Let's just knock this one off the top right off the bat: Blowjobs. Men love blowjobs. There are some men who don't love blowjobs, but those are not good men. Those are quasi-men. Unless you are one of those girls who just naturally actually likes giving head, there are some things you can do to make it more enjoyable for both parties involved:

Just like any sex act, for the love of god, make sure there is enough lubrication that no one is getting chafed. Chafing is NOT COOL. If you've got a dry mouth, speak up before you go down and get some water in you. It's only polite. You wouldn't want a dude with a sprained tongue going down on you, right? It would just miss the entire point. Same deal here vis-a-vis saliva.

Hum. Yeah. That's right. Hummers are so retro, they're back in. In fact, for some, they never went of of style. For those women who aren't such big fans of going down on the town, hummers give you something else to think about for those with the wandering minds other than the fact that, get it. While I have heard of some who hum "The Star-Spangled Banner," this strikes me a little too much as weird and the American equivalent of lying back and thinking of England. Lord knows I am a huge Stars Wars fan and that one of the most easily-remembered themes for me is Darth Vader's Imperial March, and while that may make a great ringtone for my mother, I'm not quite so sure how humming that during an "intimate moment" would go. Senseless, tuneless humming is fine, too. I really don't think men are listening in to recognize anything at that moment.

If you know where it's been-- swallow. In some immortal words that I coined freshmen year, "Don't be good-- be perfect. Swallow." Seriously. Keeping it in your mouth long enough to spit it out actually makes you have to taste it longer than in you just take it like a particularly protein-heavy shot, down the hatch. Also, this will explain to you men the erstwhile phenomenon of why some women are typically better/faster at chugging down a beer bong than you are. That girl, my friend, is the one you want to bring home. You can thank me for this little tid-bit later.

- Steak. Really good, really red, really flavorful steak. So here's this recipe (and others from the "Bitchin' Kitchen" post from last summer) again for Proposal-Worthy Steak. A toddler with half their frontal lobe could make it; it tastes like sin on a plate; and your S.O will love it, and YOU for making it. Easy for you, easy for him-- everyone is happy. And uh, it's not just men who like this steak. All of my carnivorous girl friends show up in packs to my kitchen when they smell this cooking.

Wedding-Ring Worthy Steak and Parmesan Oven Fries:
This is like gold, ok? This is like La Perla lingerie or men's Kryptonite. USE IT CAUTIOUSLY. Be kind. Be gentle. It's not fair to cook this for every Tom, Dick, or Hairy Dick. Other girls who don't have this recipe need marriage proposals too, ok?

Are you ready for this? No, you are not ready for this. But you are possibly more ready than the man about to eat it is. You know what's coming. He doesn't. Brace yourself. It's such a simple recipe with such a strong affect.

Steak. Go big. Go Sirloin. If he's going to feel like buying you Tiffany's or Harry Winston, you can afford to give the man some Sirloin.
Potatoes-- I like Yukon Golds.
Parmesan Cheese powder.
Dried Basil.
Curry powder.
Garlic powder.
Olive oil.

Take your steak, and rub in salt, pepper, oregano, basil, rosemary, and garlic powder onto each side. Put in a pan coated with butter or olive oil set to low heat. Cook to preference-- rare, medium rare, well-done, whatever. (I'm a rare or medium-rare girl, myself. I like to see it bleed a little bit. Scary, I know. What do you want from me? The family's from Austria-Hungary/Romania area. I can't help it.)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Lightly coat a sheet pan with olive oil so your potatoes won't stick to the bottom. Cut your potatoes into quarters length-wise, and then cut them again to about the width of half of your thumb. (I generally get about 5 potato slices per quarter, if that's any indication.) In a large bowl, combine a decent amount (around 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup) of Parmesan cheese with salt, pepper, oregano, rosemary, basil, garlic powder, and enough curry powder to give it a little kick. In another large bowl, coat your potato slices with olive oil. Gradually sift in your Parmesan/herb and spice mix until most every potato slice is coated. Arrange your potatoes on your coated pan so that they are touching as little as possible. Bake one side for 10-15 minutes, then flip all the potatoes and bake the other side for 10-15 minutes, or until cooked through.

This looks like a ridiculously easy and simple recipe, I know. This doesn't look lime anything grand. But it is so man-tastic. As soon as you start smelling the steak and potatoes cooking, you'll get it. Believe me. I once had a friend's boyfriend taste just FRY and tell me that if he wasn't already in a relationship, he would have asked me out then and there. And then he proceeded to ask me out. He was kidding...mostly, I think. It's true-- men do think with their stomachs, and they go crazy for this dinner. I say reserve the right to only use this after you're serious about keeping a dude around, after the 5th date or so.

-TV. Californication, it has been decided, is Sex and the City for men. There's this man, with a very manly name (Hank Moody, anyone?), who has lots of sex with hot women, lives in a sweet bachelor pad in L.A, and seems to do nothing all day but drink some good whiskey, try to write a little bit more of his long-anticipated (and likened to GnR's Chinese Democracy album,) next Great American Novel, and antagonize other men. And instead of wearing $500 Manolo Blaniks, he drives a Porsche.

It is basically watching the alter-ego of the Everyman in 27 minute time increments. It is fascinating, enlightening, and stunningly smart. I give it two thumbs up, possibly a big toe, and highly recommend it for its insight into the world of men. I've voraciously marathoned my way through a season and a half in two weeks. For guys-- hey, you've got a great escapist TV show, there.

-Comics, Action Movies, and Comic-Inspired Action Movies. I forget about how a lot of major European cities get movies before America does. I saw Iron Man 2 awhile ago, and this review from Hollywood Reporter pretty much sums up what I thought of it more succinctly and using far less derogatory language than I would: "...Everything fun and terrific about Iron Man, a mere two years ago, has vanished with its sequel. In its place, Iron Man 2 has substituted noise, confusion, multiple villains, irreverent stunts and misguided story lines. A film series that started out with critical and commercial success will have to settle for only the latter with this sequel."

This is not to say that I did not enjoy Iron Man 2. I enjoy most comic-based movies that you sit me down in front of, to a very alarming degree. I'm a big fan of flashy action and ass-kickery. I just didn't think as highly of it (by far) as I thought of the original Iron Man, which I may or may not have watched multiple times in the space of two weeks when it came out. (I also may or may not have a very large soft-spot located somewhere south of my navel for Robert Downey, Jr. and his facial hair in this film franchise.) Yes, there were tons of big explosions, side stories, and villains. But instead of adding to the fabric-weave that should have been an intensely satisfying comic spin-off, it morphed into a sort of megalomaniac smörgåsbord of confusion and weak writing instead. You got the sense that writer Justin Theroux, of Tropic Thunder brilliance, (another "Man's Movie" I absolutely love,) was pretty much throwing everything BUT the kitchen sink that suddenly transforms into Tony Stark's Russian-ass-kicking robotic dog sidekick, Mr. Disposal, to try to reach the completely unattainable anticipation of the sequel to what was argueably one of the most entertaining comic-based movies ever created. I dragged my non-comic-savvy friend Arielle along to the Odeon to see it with me, and despite having what should have been more than sufficient background knowledge on the plot, characters, and sub-plot, was just about as lost during the viewing as she was. About the only two things we could agree to stake a solid claim on was that Scarlett Johanson's little leopard dress number had to be Dolce & Gabbana, and that all of Pepper's work pumps were classic Louboutins.

And for all records, it's DC Comics for me all the way; Batman is the most smexy (smart and sexy) hero ever created, and the Joker is pretty much my ideal man. (We're not going to get into those ramifications just now.)


As far as my Blogging Birthday Present Endeavor goes, I am 5 followers away from 50, and $2 short of that $10 Google AdSense check for doing absolutely nothing other than writing what I want to rant about, by June 10th. This is your time, those of you who read and don't subscribe. And I know first, last, and even in some cases MIDDLE names of 5 of you out there who this pertains to. C'mon. Help a girl out. It's such a little thing. I would like to take this moment to point out the fact that my own MOTHER is now following this blog publicly. (Hey, Ma...) I mean, if my own mom is putting you to shame, well...that's just sad. Man/woman up. It takes all of 2 minutes to create a follower's profile, or all of 15 SECONDS to add SATCG to your newsfeed list. And it gets me off your back or balls.

That's all for now. I'm heading outside to try to get more golden on this beautiful Vermont day. Hmm. Another thing men love: Hot weather that makes women scantily clad. So, let's hear it for men!


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Pussy-Whipped: Not Just For Men.

Women, more so than any other creature on Earth, probably have the best hold on the sixth sense. Women have this knack for just knowing things-- like how your mother always knew when you were up to no good as a child, or how every woman, whether she plays deaf, dumb and blind or not, suspects when she's being cheated on. Hence, where women's intuition came from. Unfortunately for the holders of such intuition, as with any gift, sometimes you just try to deny what's right in front of you and kid yourself out of actually having to address what were formerly hunches into cold, concrete evidence. You know, the American way. Usually, this presents itself in perfectly sane and smart women going a little bit nutty when they don't want to admit to themselves that despite fighting the good fight, they have probably lost the battle. Not the whole war, mind you, but in this skirmish, their Custer fell. There will be no big calvary homecoming.

Last night, I found myself standing on the side of the curb in the dark, asking one of my closest guy friends, "How much of a fool am I?"

I like relying on men to back my hunches up because most men cannot lie in the face of a surprise question worth a shit. Now, I know you may like to think you do, but as an accomplished liar and someone who seems to seek out other liars for liaisons such as friendship, jobs, and relationships, everyone has their tell. Men's tends to be the widening eyes and flying eyebrows. The slightest slowness in answering tells you volumes. Also, rapid blinking, or lip-pursing once they have digested what you just said are are trying to give you the best and true advice possible without sending you searching for the nearest and highest bridge.

"I wouldn't say that you're a fool," my friend said, "but I think that you didn't need to do that."

About when the men in my life tell me that I've once again over-stepped the boundaries of sane human action is about when I start to admit defeat and face what I've been trying to hide from knowing inside my own head. My boys are my mirrors that I can't hide from. So I'll agree with them here: pussy-- either having one or getting it-- is enough to make you crazy. In the immortal words of the farmer in "Babe," "That'll do, pig-- that'll do."

In other news, the Hailey's Ungodly Comet of Exes (see: "Ghosts: Night of The Living Undead Relationship,") has cycled back around to Burlington and sent me an email, so something tells me that as always around this time, big changes are in the air. Every single time he has returned back to Burlington, regardless of if I decide to see him again or not, I am either settling into a relationship, or someone new is right around the corner, usually following on his tail by 2 or 3 days. And this is not any Red Sox statistics, here-- we're 4 for 4 with this sucker. Understandably, this fills me with a sense of impending doom-slash-skepticism. Nothing quite like being jet-lagged and having to say "No, thank you; go away," while keeping your wits about you. Again, past is past. On with the present and the future.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Argument For Airline Alcohol.

Nothing screams, "AA, take note!" quite like sitting alone in the dimmed lights of an empty hotel room in Zurich with 3 beds, yet just yourself, trying, and failing, to write something of any decent mien, and instead, finding yourself Googling "What sort of vodka does Swissair serve?"

Ok, so, I know I've been a bit of a whiny bitch today. And I apologize. Really, I do. But after airport security makes you cry in a room full of people (horrifying), your flight gets delayed two hours and then lands only for you and 49 other tired, upset, homesick twenty-somethings to find out that SURPRISE, your plane left without half its passengers and you are now stuck in a neutral country 5 miles outside of the city for at least a night and the better part of the next day with no cash, no idea what language they're speaking or what exactly Switzerland is other than a place with great banks, lots of gold, and nice watches, and a feeling that the more times you instantly respond "Si," and "Grazie mille," that you are juuust at the tip of the culture shock iceberg...I defy you to step into those grody shoes and not feel just a little bit put out.

Short of begging, "Make it better, make it better, make it better," I really don't know what to do with myself. And then again, that doesn't so much involve me as it just involves someone other than me solving my problems. So, if you were one of the people who received a very whiny, bitchy, Chicken-Little-esque "The world is falling, and it's volcano ash on my head!" phone call from me today-- this is the part where I say, "I'M SORRY." Bear with me. I'm upset and alone and don't know exactly what it is I should be doing in this situation. (Mom, you're included in this, because even if you are my mother, I shouldn't make you feel worried that I'm about to take the closest boarding ticket stub and start sawing it violently across my wrists.) I'm just in an awkward place right now. I ran away from real life for three months, learned a new language that I habitually can't stop speaking, and now I'm scared to come back home, when yet, I'm just so tired of being on the road and in train stations and in taxis and waiting for planes to board and alternately being hassled by or hassling airport security that there is no place else I want to be, desperately. I'll say it again-- I'M SCARED. So although you may hate to lie, I guess right now that the best thing you could say is, "It's going to be ok." I won't fully believe you, and you won't believe yourself, but the point is-- someone has to say it, and as someone stuck right in the middle of it all who can't see up from down anymore, I can't.

That's a lot of confessions for the night, so I'm just going to go back to my little cliched tableau of writer, empty computer screen, and misplaced frustration. And the sound of the Absolut-shaped water bottle's neck clinking against the rim of the tumbler, the sound of glass on glass and the soft and reassuring glug, glug, glug that it whispers? Well, oh, I completely understand why they serve copious amounts of alcohol on planes. Here's hoping I get mine tomorrow while reclining somewhere over mid-Atlantic.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Aftermath of Sicilia: Sunburn and S&M

Hindsight and nerve endings being 20/20, this, to the left, may not have been the best choice.

Rubbing lotion in tiny, gentle baby circles on my chest with my fingertips hurts like a bitch that sends me gasping for air.

It's worse than sadomasochism.

There's a pretty good chance that when I get home, I'll be peeling most awe-inspiringly. Like, the sort of awe that you get when you see a burn victim on the streets panhandling for change, compared as to the sort of awe that you get when you see a really great piece of art or drink a perfectly made Cosmopolitan, 1 part Triple Sec, 1 part cranberry juice, and 2 parts premium vodka.

Said Cosmopolitan costs 10 Euro. Said sunburn was absolutely free after round-trip airfare and a hitched bus ride.

Even if you can peel the skin off the back of my thighs and shoulders and write on it like Hannibal's own parchment, will you still love me when I get home?


Twisted Tips for Truly Tricky Travelers

Ciao, ragazzi! Mi dispace for not writing recently. I just got back from a much-needed, 4 day, last-Italian-adventure, blow-off-steam-and-not-study-for-finals trip to Sicily. I have a few blog posts, including one of blogging tips and tools of the trade for other bloggers, that I have currently under wraps, but right now, my state-side roommate is currently here, and I think being social with something other than my computer screen is favorable. Despite the fact that I actually did bring it to Sicily, not much writing was done on it. It was only used to alert the world of our continued existence after travelling to and in the birthplace of epic volcanoes and this little organization called...the Mafia?...and to watch Champlain's graduation (tears optional). Mostly, it was a 5 pound weight on my sunburned shoulders in my backpack.

Getting to and from Sicily seemed like it may never happen. I was the one who ended up planning the travel itinerary, which, truthfully, was the first real itinerary I have ever planned in my life. I tend to be a "by-the-seat-of-my-pants" girl, but on a huge island in which you don't speak the language so much and is surrounded by volcanoes and people with an affinity for cement boots (if Hollywood can convince you of this fact), is not someplace you want to be standing around, going "Huh?" I was so preoccupied attending my last Wednesday night class, running to Santa Maria Novella station afterward, and buying my train ticket to get into Rome and meet Alli to spend the night at JD's that I completely overlooked a few facts. Mainly, the fact that validating tickets in Italy is a big deal. And so, "Twisted Tips for Tricky Travelers" was born.

Not validating a train ticket can cost you either up to 50 Euro, or an eviction from said train, hopefully, while it's not still moving. I made the penultimate mistake, short of never even buying a ticket (this, however, is something I "conveniently" forget to do every time I'm in Rome, but there's more on that later), when I was so caught up in enjoying my ultimate travel McNugget Happy Meal that I completely forgot to validate my 44 Euro fast-train ticket. I was halfway through my crunchy, sinfully salty and greasy fries by the time I realized this, and sat there, stunned, completely thrown off my McComfort Food. It's a totally noob mistake, and I am not a noob in Italy anymore. In fact, I moseyed over to Santa Maria Novella Stazione, ordered my McDonalds, got my water, ignored the kissy noises and comments, and got on the train in complete and total Italian ease. Why I missed those little yellow boxes, I'll never know.

So I sat there, repeating "fuck" over and over in my head, which is the one English swear I will not let go of because there is really no equivalent, and mentally calculated the first $75 would be charged to my newly minted, never-been-used, very scary credit card when I came up with my dastardly Plan of Action: to play the Dumb American Traveling in Italy for the First Time.

Thank god I was on my way for a weekend of hiking and beaching, and so, wore my "adventure clothes" of cuffed boyfriend jeans, scuffed-to-shit Vans slip-on sneakers, and was carrying my undeniably ostentatious red and white Burton backpack. Also, thank god I was not only willing to "look cute, be charming, stumble with my Italian, apologize and blink my big blue eyes" as Alli instructed me via text-- I also had chosen a good day to wear a baby blue shirt that brought out said big blue eyes and a strand of classy pearls.

And then I came up with what is possibly one of the most cunning and manipulative plans of my life. Which, of course, I am sharing with you so you can abuse it, too, if you ever find yourself in the same sort of situation:

- I plugged my iPod in,
- Hid my diamond which suggested wealth and the incorrect idea that I may be able to pay a 50 Euro fine, and
- Pretended to be asleep.

Sure enough, when the train steward came by to check tickets as they always do, I appeared to be, and actually kind of was, fast asleep. She gently tapped my shoulder, and I started awake with an "Oh! Oh!" as she apologized and asked for my ticket. Then, in one of the most painful moments of my life, and in one of the most convincing moments of my acting career, pretended to not understand a word she said, not even when she asked "Parli Italiano?" Instead, I made what must have been a very dumb and confused face and answered, "Uhhh, no," in English. She switched languages and asked for my ticket again as I rubbed my eyes. I fished it out of my pocket and presented it to her as if it were Excalibur, watching as he eyes went straight to the empty spot where the validation was supposed to be. She looked quickly at me once more (charming, helpless, blink, blink), and then punched the ticket as checked, while thanking me, still in English, and wishing me a good trip. I then "went back to sleep."

Does this make me a bad person? Yes. A cheap-skate? Probably. But I want to thank Mill River's Stage 40 theater department, Mr. Bruno, and Peter Marsh for 6 years of excellent acting coaching. Thank you, dad, for those big blue eyes. And thank you, very nice train steward lady, for letting this dumb American girl go on to Roma and then Sicilia.

Though Sicilian (that's pronounced "Se-chill-ian") and Italian may be two completely different linguistic creatures, Sicilia is by far the favorite place I have been to in Italy. We got in to Palermo and visited the Botanical Gardens, the Rotunda, and hopped a bus to Mondello beach, where, after some overcast weather and having soccer balls and sand kicked at us by Sicilian middle-schoolers, we decided to call it a visit, and hop on our bus to Catania before I started screaming "Basta, ragazzi! Sei stronzo!"

Catania was a completely different story. Though the city may have felt like it was stuck in a time warp from the early '90s, it had enough sooty Baroque buildings, tourists, and locals to give it a well-lived-in feel. As I told Alli, "You know it's Sicily when at night, you can hear someone's mother chastising them from across the street through their open windows." The pastries were to die for. The market in the mornings, a foodie's madhouse. We bought our food there and took it away to sit in view of historical castellos and piazzas and lunched on fluffy rolls hot from the oven, prosciutto, fresh black pepper and pecorino cheese, olives soaked in olive oil, and some of the best oranges, strawberries, and melon I have ever had for about 5 Euro a person.

Our last day and night, we stayed in Catania City Center B&B in what could quite possibly become my Sicilian flat, newly renovated, painted, and decorated, with full kitchen, bathroom, and queen-size bed, for the dirt-cheap price of 65 Euro, which in no way reflected the ambiance. There was Wi-Fi. A flat-screen, high-def TV. And Satellite cable. And a DVD player, complete with a DVD library. Free breakfast in the morning. Angela, the B&B owner, not only made us some UNBELIEVABLE cappuccino, but also helped us with a thousand and one tiny, annoying questions we had about the internet, Catania, and helped us coordinate how to get to the beach. (Any errors made in course were strictly our mistakes as bumbling American travelers. As you will see.) I have stayed in a lot of hotels, B&Bs, and hostels in my life from places there was no hot running water (AHEM--Agora Hostel--AHEM) to the Waldorf Astoria and a concierge suite in Montreal's Hilton. And I am telling you, straight up, no shit-- Catania City Center B&B was the best place I have ever spent a night. It redefines clean, modern, efficient, and welcoming. So much that instead of eating out at a restaurant that night, we got kebabs and Muscato dessert wine to go, and spent the night in our flat lounging, eating, drinking, and watching the Scooby Doo movie.

Oh, that should also be addressed: Sicilian dessert wines are by far some of the most sweet, succulent, delicious nectar from the gods that you will ever drink. I spent roughly 30 to 35 U.S dollars on a bottle of Muscato to celebrate graduation in absentia since we couldn't be in Burlington to actually party, so happy fucking graduation, I bought myself a very expensive bottle of wine to think about drinking with you guys. Best served either very chilled, or naturally very warmed from the afternoon Sicilian sun.

Friday evening, we took a sunset hike up Mount Etna, also known as, "Oh my god, I'm from the Northeast and have never seen a volcano! THAT IS LAVA! THAT IS REAL, BLACK, HARDENED LAVA!" We went with the Etna Tattoo and Art Cafe Club, and not only did our guide Ernesto get us there, up, down, and back alive, he also provided some cold weather clothing after my speech on the attributes of Gore-Tex (waterproof, windproof, insulating,) got lost in translation, an impromptu karaoke show for us from the jump-seats in the back of his Land Rover, and some bites of a truly excellent prosciutto and cheese sandwich. We even got enough cell reception at the top of the big caldera to call our friend from his motherland as a pre-graduation present. It was, by far, one of the top 3 great experiences of my life. It may have even edged out some of the better sex I've had. That's how unreal it was. The white sand beach and swimming in the Meditteranian was nice. The black lava beach under Aci Castello was stunning (and hot). But Etna, looming over all of Catania at a truly staggering elevation, belching small tufts of smoke, was what really stunned this writer who previously thought she was a real "big mountain girl" from Vermont. HA HA. I lose.

The people of Sicily, however, are really what made it. From hiking Etna with the fun-loving, multi-lingual mountain destroyers Tyrone and Maria, to the old men who serenaded us in the streets, to the 16 year old girl on the city bus who invited us to her birthday party next week (probably to be the entertainment as she thought me struggling through a conversation in Italian was HEE-LAR-I-OUS,) to the Sheraton hotel front desk man who through a conversational mix of Italian, French, and English called us a cab after we hiked a mile from Aci Castello to Aci Trezza after missing our bus and trying to get back to Catania in time to catch our bus to Palermo, they are, without a doubt, the best Italians I have had the pleasure of interacting with. I was afraid at first from all of the guidebook warnings of them being a very closed and guarded culture. Totally unfounded. Our very sweet cabby Giovanni who had our American-Sicilian friend's liquid and unfairly long-lashed eyes and was quite tricky himself when he asked us if we wanted to take the cab from Catania to Palermo (to the tune of around 300 Euro,) actually complimented us with the universal sign for "you're clever" with a twist of his index in the dimple of his cheek after we emphatically responded with a "NO!!!" and then laughed when he asked us if we "like the Catanese boys?" and we gave an equally emphatic "SI!!!"

In another episode of traveler trickery in which never buying bus tickets for city buses in Rome or Sicily was involved, when Alli and I were the last two people on the bus to La Playa beach, and our driver got up to check the ticket validating machines, partly to head him off from asking for our (nonexistent) tickets and partially to actually get an answer, I asked him before he could get to us if the bus was stopping at the beach. (In Italian, of course.) He told us no, and after seeing our crestfallen little faces, asked if that's where we were trying to go. "Si," I answered, and the next thing I knew, he was telling us he would take us there. How many other people can say that they had a city bus drive 20 minutes outside of its route to personally drop them off at the beach like a very, VERY long stretch limo? That's the Sicilian way.

I don't think I have to tell you out-right that I highly suggest taking a trip to Sicily or even possibly living there for a bit. (Maybe a year or so.) But in the case that my arguement for this scrappy and potentially erupting little island has convinced you enough, here are some tips. I'll tell it bluntly: Sicilians are small. Their buildings are large. The men are swarthy and gorgeous. Try to keep your panties on. Palermo is a Napolean-sized Rome. Catania is prettier. Sicily is dirty. Don't expect to find many trashcans or Western toilet seats. Taking an SAIS bus is the easiest, cheapest, and most comfortable way to travel. All SAIS bus drivers are hip 30-something dudes with cool shades. You don't have to get city bus tickets. Just hop on. Hop off if you see a ticket inspector get on. TRY to speak some Italian. Eating is cheap. Sicilians are loud. Fair-skinned people will burn easily. Lava beaches are sharp and hard on the ass. Plus, any city that sells trademarked seeds outside of Amsterdam is down with me.

Right now, I'm brown as a nut, probably going to start peeling, mid-finals, and I return back state-side in 3 days. If you have any questions about Italy or my travels while I'm still here, now would be the time to send me a comment and ask me.