Curiouser & Curiouser

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Ghost of Valentine’s Day Past February 13, 2010

Filed under: dating,guys,love,Special Occasions,thoughts — curiouserx2 @ 11:20 pm
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Cartoon by xkcd (http://www.xkcd.com)

Going through my old clip files from my days at the college paper, I came across one of my weekly columns (mine ran every Monday and was entitled “Carpe Diem, Baby” – some things never change…). This one in particular took aim at Valentine’s Day and I thought it only appropriate to share my view on this annual ritual, circa 2003 (do keep in mind that I was quite single at this point, and possibly a little harsh on my fellow females. Still – my heart was in the right place):

Monday, Febraury 3, 2003

Girls, you ought to be ashamed.

Exploiting your loved one on Valentine’s Day is not something to be proud of. And yet, as this day to end all dreadful days approaches, I see both greed and shallowness heading up its approach.

The other day I was in the kitchen doing what some might call cooking (I like “scorching” or “charring” as alternatives) when suddenly I was bombarded by Valentines Day ads on the radio. The three-minute onslaught included everything from candies to restaurants to fine jewelry.

Then later, hanging out in the dining pavilion, three girls seated at an adjacent table initiated the pre-Valentine’s Day rites for which females have become notorious. These include giddy speculations regarding the kinds of gifts and adornments that might be showered upon them this year, as well as much reminiscing about past offerings from their respective admirers: sparkly baubles, flowers, nights on the town… what more could a girl ask for?

Umm…. how about… love?

Last time I checked, Valentine’s Day was about love and expressing that love to someone special. Do we really lack so much imagination that we can’t express love without purchasing something?

Men agonize about the tradition of gift giving, unsure of how much to spend, what to spend it on and whether or not they will meet the expectations of their significant females.

Not to mention they’re held prisoner by a nasty double standard. Along with Sweetest Day (two words: card. companies.), whose date every woman seems to have etched into her brain the minute she ceases to be single, Valentine’s Day is a tango danced by the retail industry and the male population.

In a recent poll performed by the National Retail Federation, surveyors concluded that guys typically shell out four times more than their loved one. The average male will spend $158 while his other half will dig deep into her pockets for a whopping $36.

This scarcely comes as a shock. It’s more than socially acceptable for a man to foot the bill for diamonds and dinner while women wrap themselves in a bow and squeal, “Here I am!”

Yep, her we are ladies. In the 21st century, finally reaping some of the benefits of the feminist movement, and yet we’re still playing the game of “Let’s be equal when it’s fun and convenient and leave the rest to the men.”

But don’t despair for our misguided gender just yet.

There is still hope.

Valentine’s Day needs a makeunder, a chance to get back to its roots. I’m not saying we should all bust out shrines to St. Valentine plot clandestine marriages in honor of said Roman priest.

But I do propose a challenge to all couple out there to nix the gifts this year. At least the store-bought variety.

Boycott the chocolatiers and jewelry counters. Shun the retail industry, stand on their display cases and scream at the top of your lungs, “You will leach off my love no longer!”

Grab that sweetheart of yours and vow to spend some quality time together. You’ll find a little imagination can create an unforgettable day.

And if creativity is not your forte, eHow, a website promoting healthy relationships, has a few suggestions.

Guys, leaving little notes around the house or in her car is a great way to build anticipation for a special night together. Or, paint a message of love on her lawn (just be sure to use water soluble, non-toxic paint, lest your eternal love be eternally seared into her front yard).

For the ladies, try a candle-lit bedroom with a picnic for two laid out on the bed. Steer clear of both soup and fondue for this one.

Whether you get fancy or get down to basics, it’s the expression of love and wanting to be together that’s important.

So, curl up together by the fire, get lost in a three-hour conversation, or (and eHow gets takes the prize for cheese on this one) watch the sunset and promise each other your love will burn longer than the sun (you may now gag).

But seriously, this year let’s take the retail out of romance.

 

The GHP Part III January 19, 2009

…. We met up with J’s Dad and sister at a little restaurant by the lake. It was late in the evening, and we were starving, and I looked like hell (still on the mend from my illness with a nasty, lingering cough that was oh-so-ladylike…), but I was excited to finally see in person at least two of the until-now fictitious characters in J’s stories. We arrived first, and ordered drinks, and as the two of them walked in, I felt this bizarre sense similar to what you might feel upon seeing Jude Law or Jennifer Aniston (or whoever) in your grocery store buying milk or kumquats (or whatever). I had seen them in so many pictures, and had such a crisp idea of them in my mind, and now, here they were, real-life people. And not at all scary. And, in fact, very much like myself and my family.

We had a great dinner, then headed home to pass out for a long night of much-needed sleep. It would be the last of its kind until we arrived back in Columbus.

There was much touring of the area, and the weather was unseasonably warm, so I fit in a run and we walked into town and around the local college campus. (It seems my campus-phobia is on the mend, and I may soon even be able to return to school, should I perhaps desire such things…) J’s older brother and mom flew in on New Year’s Eve, and his Dad decided we should all try this renowned soul food restaurant in Charlotte called LeWon’s. It was in a tiny little strip mall on a questionable side of town, and shared a parking lot with a gas station. The interior wasn’t much to talk about, but MY GOD. When they put that food down on our table, the smell was almost overwhelming, and everything we tried was phenomenal. We left stuffed and schooled. Never judge collard greens, mashed potatoes and candied yams by their cover.

From there, J’s parents took off for New Year’s in Charleston, SC, and the rest of us headed home to prepare for the festivities. The party began relatively early and wound down in the wee hours on New Year’s Day (actually, it even continued after that when, a few hours after some had finally gone to bed, others returned to make breakfast for everyone). What happened in between is hard to summarize, but the key moments were these:

-Evil Twin and In-Law return to join in the party.

-Massive, four-table beer pong tournament is organized

-At midnight, the hands-down biggest guy at the party pops the cork on a bottle of champagne, sends spray flying, splashes a bit on this weird, little guy that no one invited. Weird, little guy gets booted (by force) from the party. Peaceful merriment resumes.

-An hour later, flashlights are seen in the back and front yards. The local cops caught Weird, Little Guy who was underage and had an illegal blood-alcohol measurement. He sings like a canary and tells them where to find the party. They try to enter the house without a warrant, and we immediately usher the few underage guests (J’s little sister is only 18.) up to a little room upstairs. (Or, as one of the guest astutely put it, “We had to pull some Anne Frank sh#t on those underaged kids.”

-Cops try to search the house, but J reminds them that they have no right to do such things without a warrant, and appeases them, instead, by have all of us bring our I.D.’s to the cops. After ruining the mood for a good hour, cops let us off the hook, tell us to keep it down and finally get lost. Merriment resumes.

-We get a roaring bonfire going (by which I mean, Evil Twin and I use our pyromaniac tendencies to stoke the fire with empty beer boxes, random trash items and the occasional alcohol). Sparklers ensue.

Admittedly, I crashed early, but only because I knew very well that another night of partying would follow, and as my body is unaccustomed as of late to such hardcore debauchery, I knew I should rest up. The next night proved to be much of the same, with the addition of marshmallow-roasting and hot-tubbing. And this, my friends, is the origin of the newly-minted terms “brominizer” and “brominization.” Apparently the process of adding bromine to water is called brominization, but this also seemed the perfect descriptor for the excessive man-love that occurred as a natural effect of the joyous reunion of a large group of male friends and relatives. See below for examples.

And so it went, and there was plenty more I’m leaving out, I’m sure. But that’s a fairly accurate summation of how I went rogue for 11 days.

Thank you to all involved. We must do it again sometime.

~a

picture-11

 

“So… Cat Walks into a House, Right?” December 12, 2008

Filed under: guys,humor,nanowrimo,pets — curiouserx2 @ 7:06 pm
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…And the rest is history. emerson

Last night, I was lying across the bed, Gabe sleeping soundly next to me (who is MUCH improved – thanks to everyone who asked), trying to work up the gumption to go to the gym by way of reading my book (A Secret History by Donna Tartt – interesting, but the writing unravels a bit as you go; I don’t see it making the list). Anyway, my mind is going something like this:

ME: I really should go. Dinner was great, but it was huge, AND we had dessert AND I’m going out tomorrow night.

ME ALSO: Yes, but it’s like 14 degrees outside (it was, in fact, 35 degrees outside, my conscience exaggerates) and it’s been a very long day.

ME: But the holidays are coming and I should head them off at the pass, you know? Get the upper hand.

ME ALSO: Yes, but you’ll be wasting gas taking the extra trip out there, and if you move you’ll wake up Gabe and LOOK HOW ADORABLE HE IS WHEN HE SLEEPS.

ME: But I’ve put on a couple pounds due to a certain medication, and I really should do what I can to counteract its effects.

ME ALSO: Yes, but now you’ve got that pin-up girl thing going for you, which is both undeniably attractive AND you don’t have to work out as much to maintain it.

ME: Ok, now you’re just buttering me up.

ME ALSO: No. Really. I’d do you.

ME: That’s gross. I should go.

At this point, thankfully, the phone rings. It’s J, and he is speaking in hushed tones and being very mysterious, but eventually the story comes out:

Earlier in the evening, a door-to-door salesman came by. J sat with the front door open, chatting politely enough with the man, but also doing his best to get rid of him. As he feels he’s on the verge of wrapping up the conversation (AT LAST!), a tiny, gray blur whizzes past him and into the house. The salesman just keeps yapping on and on about lawn care or gutter cleaning or something, but J is distractedly looking into the house to see what has just invaded. He convinces the guy that he REALLY must go, and goes searching through the house for the wild animal.

In the kitchen, he finds it. Or him, to be more accurate. A diminutive, stormy-colored kitten, attacking the fringe on the Christmas tree skirt. J catches the little guy and gets him back outside, but the damage has been done: J has been chosen. The kitten remains on the porch, huddles himself in a little ball by the front door and cries his hoarsey, little squeak intermittently until J has no choice but to let him in the house to warm up. It’s getting colder out as night falls.

J feeds him some pieces of ham (granted maybe not the best kitten food, but whatever). By the time I show up, the kitten is following J wherever he goes – along the porch, over to the neighbor’s, up and down the street. Finally, we decided he must stay in the house overnight. No kittens perish on our watch. Fascinated by the house, the kitten’s a little skittish at first, but after J’s friend K brings over some food and litter, he begins to make himself right at home. The plan was to leave him downstairs on the couch with a blanket while we slept upstairs, but he curled up with us as we sat on the couch with him, and soon all three of us were asleep there.

J hasn’t named him yet, as there is still some question as to whether his two roommates are down with having a cat for a while. D is fine with it. He wouldn’t bring it inside himself, but as soon as J did, he was all about the little guy. B, however, feels it necessary to put up the Grinch front, refusing to show it affection and make an exaggerated show of his distaste for the thing, when clearly we can all see he actually thinks it’s as adorable as the rest of us do. (Why, by the way, must so many men do this? Both my brother and dad act this way with Gabe. Hmph.)

So, there you have it. Feline determination trumps my night at the gym.

And J gets a new friend.

~a

 

The Thing You Thought You Knew October 22, 2008

Filed under: dating,guys,humor,life,thoughts — curiouserx2 @ 8:19 pm
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Now, about this much-hyped homecoming episode….

Thanks to a relatively tame Friday evening, J and I were up early and off to his college town (a quick 35-minute drive out of the city) by noon. When we arrived, his friends had gathered on the main thoroughfare in town for lunch. And, by god, they were sitting just outside of an ice cream parlour and despite the pleadings of the tiny angel on my right shoulder (homemade soup and salad joint),  I had frozen custard for lunch (Score 1 for the Devil on the Left).

So – powered by icy dairy product goodness – we set out to tour the campus.

Now for some context:

As an high school senior, pouring over the stacks of collegiate brochures that littered my mailbox (and let’s face it, the only real mail we get as teenagers), I had the distinct and deep-seated sense that University was my destiny, that I was cut from the cloth of leaf-strewn campuses with Tudor-style buildings (tweed! plaid! herringbone!!). That I would finally find my element in the dusty light filtering through leaded glass panels and dormitories warmed by flannel curtains and fireplaces.

Such sugar-glass idealism, you can imagine, was shattered quickly and deftly in the first few months of my freshman year. I found the campus, all right. Indiana University was picture-perfect, from its rolling, wooded campus down to the little stone chapel and cemetery abutting the ancient, hulking student union. But I quickly discovered that the student body did not share my (possibly absurd) vision of the college experience. An immediate falling-out with the few friends I’d made at orientation (due to problems with a male friend I don’t feel like going into) sent me spiraling into solitude. I was not making friends. I was not having fun. I felt betrayed by the school, by my own idiotic romanticism.

As a last resort, I found myself seeking acceptance via Indiana’s Greek System – the coalition of fraternities and sororities that monopolized social life on campus. I became increasingly indoctrinated with the idea that these people were superior, and I needed to be one of them if I wanted to improve my lot in the college life.

I attended frat parties (“You’re lucky to even be here”), subjected myself to heavy drinking as I sought the acceptance of these boys (“Your lucky I’m even talking to you”), and weathered shame on more than one occasion (“There’s no room in the house, girls, sorry” ((as three others passed us to enter)). “What happened between us last week, that was a big mistake. Sorry. Won’t happen again.” )

Somehow – and thank god – I snapped out of it sometime just after the New Year. I resolved to do my own thing for the rest of the year, and transferred to an urban university slightly closer to home. It was not what I’d dreamed of, and in fact, after my first year there, I developed quite the life off campus and was little involved with the school at all aside from attending the necessary classes and working at the student paper. I graduated unceremoniously, skipping out on walking the stage in favor of moving to Austin, Texas as soon as possible.

So there you have it: my nontraditional college experience (the variety of which I’d bet money many of you have also had).

Consider yourself briefed:)

Okay, where was I? Ah yes, so we strolled the campus that sunny afternoon, touring locales associated with  much harmless (er, relatively harmless) debauchery. And then we came to our final stop….. fraternity row.

Yes. J was a member (and a very active one at that) of the Greek System I’d so abhorred. Yes, I am sleeping with the enemy (but in this case, the enemy is so damn soft and cuddly ((F#$% I can be such a sucker for soft, cuddly things!)) I’d known this, in fact, and had actually written him off when we initially met. I thought I knew just what kind of man comes out of this system, and I wanted nothing to do with him.

As you can see, I gave him another chance (and have been continually kicking myself for almost letting him get away…) So, I decided, perhaps I needed to give this system that he honors so dearly, another look as well. (Let the record show, your author can sometimes take her desire to be open-minded to seemingly ludicrous lengths).

The tour of his old fraternity stomping grounds began safely enough. At his school, the frat houses had been dispersed back in the 80’s due to excessive trouble-making (vandalism, alcohol abuse… near deaths. You know.) By the time J was rushing, fraternities were only given large basement clubhouses in which to meet and cavort. They lived separately among the campus dorms.

After a quick break for Bobtoberfest (see “Dirty Deeds. Not So Cheap” below) we arrived back on campus to meet up with his fellow alumni brothers at a senior dorm room. Strange the difference 5 years makes. Walking up the stairs and into this room, I. Felt. OLD.

Scratch that – mature. I felt a wisdom of the ages I didn’t even know I possessed. (Sweety, darling, honey it is 40 DEGREES OUT!!! If you must where a dress, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD PUT SOME OF THOSE CUTE LITTLE WOOL LEGGINGS ON!!! And you, in the corner, I promise you that no amount of Franzia will get you laid if you pass out first! And to the girl running around having your picture taken with every person in the room – male, female, you don’t care. Put the camera down. PUT IT DOWN AND WALK AWAY. No one (not even you) looks very cute when they’re this drunk, and you are not having fun if you spend the whole night posing.)

We walk into this room, and the first thing I notice (besides the general disarray and abundance of stolen signs decking the walls) is that there seems to be white powder tracked all over the carpet. My first thought is that we’ve just missed a coke bust. Mais non. Closer observation shows a hole in the wall the size of a dinosaur egg (not velociraptor, mind you, were talking brontosaurus) – we soon learn that it was put there by one of the more bitter alums. (The same alumnus later crashes the party again and stumbles off to the bathroom in the back hall where he puts yet another hole in the wall) Beer pong ensues. More kids arrive, and the room fills like a sinking ship taking on water.

Feeling a little overwhelmed, but trying to maintain a good nature, I take a couple swigs of Goldschlagger directly from the bottle (you know, for old time’s sake), and someone hands me a strawberry-kiwi jello shot that tastes suspiciously like straight Kamchatka.

My college experience is complete.

J, I think noticing my apprehension, keeps close watch and promises we won’t stay long. While not totally comfortable, I am mildly fascinated by his relationship with the current members of his fraternity. They revere him. He is legend. And it’s a damn good thing.

There are so many kinds of guys that are given leadership or mentor positions in the fraternity system. The whole thing is about creating “families” within the system. You have “bigs” and “littles” and “greatbigs” and so on and so on. And the younger brothers look to their older brothers for guidance and protocol. So you have 18 and 19-year-old guys learning behaviors from either A) douche bags like the drunk guy who punched holes in the walls, or B) guys with a conscious and sense of responsibility and pride, who know all too well they are being watched.

I was worried that, seeing J in this element, I would lose site of the man I know. That he would devolve into some kind of loud, obnoxious, quasi-neanderthal, sucked-into-the-mob-mentality kind of guy. Not so. With his “family” he was warm, openly affectionate, charismatic and dignified (whilst having a damn good time, mind you.)

The party was quickly getting a little out of hand, however, so we did leave, joining one of the current students and his girlfriend on the descent from the hill down into town to a local club. We cozied into a large, round booth up in the front window and had ordered a drink when J’s current roommate (and also an alumnus) appeared outside (more accurately, threw himself against the glass, “Graduate”-style) glasses askew, dark hair more mussed than usual, an unidentifiable liquid splashed all over his sweater. We attempted to coax him out from the cold and into the restaurant, but when it became clear that was unlikely, J went outside in an attempt to talk some sense into his inebriated roomie.

As I watched the scene unfold sans sound (you can hear nothing through the glass, just watch their mouths move and observe the body language – like watching a very special episode of Dawson’s Creek on mute), J became achingly attractive, reasoning with his close buddy, winning him over and getting him to come inside for a much-needed glass of water.

At 2am, as the bars set us free, we climbed through the night back up the hill,  J’s roommate singing at the top of his lungs (“Berg slept in a hot dog, baby!”).  I recalled the evening’s events, and J’s valor and humor and kindness through it all. If this is what can be bred from a frat house….. well so be it. Like any institution, these male playgrounds of ritualistic camaraderie produce all types of man.

Most assuredly, I’m in love with one of them (despite everything I thought I knew).

~a

 

Tall, Dark and Fearsome October 9, 2008

Filed under: dating,guys,humor — curiouserx2 @ 7:57 pm
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MULTI-GIFTED J’s BRILLIANT TALENT #36: Scaring the ever-loving shite out of me.

Observe: The other night I was lying in bed, reading a collection of Neil Gaiman short stories (if you haven’t read his work and care at all, AT ALL, about the fate of the tale – not short stories, my friends, tales – you must read him).

Anyway, my reading-at-night frequently devolves into a struggle to both keep my eyelids open and avoid the pain that surely comes when a large hardbound book smacks you in the face. I’d arrived at this state and was nearing surrender when the thought crossed my mind that the front door was still unlocked. J had mentioned the possibility of coming over to spend the night at my place, but as the night wore on, I now assumed that was unlikely. “Perhaps I should get up and lock said door,” I thought to myself.

I live in a quaint, little house in a relatively safe neighborhood with a fantastic roommate, G (who I adore but who comes home late often and has a tendency to leave the front door unlocked also). It has occurred to me on more than one occasion that this is maybe not the safest thing, and that, one of these days I’m going to wake up to a masked man standing over my bed forcing me at gunpoint to tell him where I hide all my money, at which point I will laugh hysterically in his face as he has implied that I possess a notable sum of money. Or any money at all.

Such was my line of thinking as I passed out for the night.

So you can imagine my surprise, premature heart attack, ninja-like reflexes, sheer terror when I wake up to Gabe’s vicious bark (the one reserved for life-threatening situations and my ex-boyfriend) and a black-clad, hooded man, indeed standing over my bed in the dark.

Fortunately for J, recognition and rational thought kicked in just before fight-or-flight. I may be small, but I’ve some sense that I could make a respectable attempt at a good shoe-throwing, eye-gouging, a##-kicking if a situation arose.

Or at least bite. Really hard.

After much apology, I think I forgave J for breaking into my house (right, so pushing open an ajar door may not qualify as breaking-and-entering). But I’ve taken to locking him out at night now, so that he is forced to call me at odd hours from my front porch asking to be let in.

Excessive? Maybe. I’m only thinking of his best interests, though. I kind of like his face, and I wouldn’t want it marred with a gash from the stacked, 4-inch heal of my Steve Madden pumps. (You can see I’ve thought this over and deemed this pair as capable of the most damage) 🙂

~a

)

(Ahem...) Addendum:)

 

You Know What I Like About You?… October 8, 2008

Filed under: dating,guys,humor,love — curiouserx2 @ 7:59 pm
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J is talking to me, but I’m distracted and only half hearing him. It’s bright in his kitchen and a wet, dreary morning outside, so, out of the corner of my eye, I see that we are perfectly reflected in the window. There’s him: t-shirt-clad as always, a green cup filled with orange juice held to his lips. There’s me: sucking down a bagel (a gluten-free bagel, mind you. I recently developed a wheat sensitivity, and J has taken this as a personal mission to discover new – and frequently unusual – food alternatives).

Anyway – yes, I’m basking in carbohydrate glory, simultaneously dreading the moment I have to head out into the rain and struggling to capture this moment, to cage it, fully alive and intact, in my memory.

Last night, J became only the second man (right, ok, non-blood related man) to hear from my mouth the words “I love you.” You see, I belong to the strange breed we call Cynical Romantics. Love is my Loch Ness Monster – spoken widely of, rarely spotted and often mistakenly identified (just a blured photo of a floating log we call Lust).

While I may not have been in love with every guy I’ve dated, I can see J as a strange amalgamation of these past men. None of them were without merits, and I’m seeing those things I adored slapped together in the walking, talking collage that is my current boyfriend: J2 was athletic with a kind heart, C shared my sarcasm and taste in music, S treated me like a queen, Italian A had a zest for life and M sang to me and loved my dog (more than me, if we want to be honest).

And here’s J: All of these things (and plenty more of his own – most notably: he’s well-read, a brilliant writer and together we can quote Anchorman in its entirety), wrapped up in one, flip-flop clad man. The ultimate partner in crime.

A girl doesn’t, however, come out of more than a decade of hardcore dating without some sense that there are challenges ahead, even with the most amazing of men. I know. I DO.

But, come on… This is my wheat-free bagel. I’ve done without for so long, and suddenly – I can have it. My world has changed.

Let me savor it mindlessly for a moment 🙂

~a

Meet J

Meet J