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 Grand Finale February 16, 2009

Saturday evening marked what would be the final GIRLS!GIRLS!GIRLS! performance – at least in its current incarnation. For those of you unfamiliar with this strange phenomenon that I inadvertently started a little more than a year ago, it can be breifly summarized as this: four female musicians from various (and varying) bands come together a few times a year to perform an ecelctic mix of both original music and old standards – frequently in four-part harmony, eliciting both Vaudeville and Andrews Sisters comparisons.

Valentine’s Day was our fifth and final show together, and what a way to quit while we were on top. With our biggest turnout to date, we packed The Thirsty Ear wall to wall for most of the evening. The crowd was rambunctious and game for what we were dishing, and by the time we wrapped the set with a fiery little rendition of “Fever,” even the air in that room was on fire.

But let me rewind – to approximately 6 hours before the show. To where I’m just waking up (for the second time that day) and having trouble doing so. Hanging on my closet door is a red dress. It was once floor-length with a little rhinestone pin attached at the waste, but is now stripped of any ornamentation and cut jaggedly to nearly half its former length. You see, about a week before, I’d had grandiose ideas about revamping my dress from Christmas into a saucy little number for Valentine’s Day. But here we were, day of the show, with an unwearable garment hanging limply before me and little hope.

Procrastination becomes me. What can I say?

Anyway – at this point, my roommate and fellow GIRL! shows up in the form of salvation. She was a former costume design major in college, and although she didn’t complete the program, she did pick up a trick or two, and we now had about an hour and a half to put said tricks to use. I did what little I could, evening out the cut we’d made and pinning up a rough hem, the she took over, and something miraculous occurred: a little sewing machine action and a few darts later, we had an LRD that was not just wearable but quite the stunner. I threw a short, black petticoat underneath, pinned on a black rose where the rhinestones had been, pulled on some black tights and 4-inch ankle boots and…. voila! Out the door with time to spare, AND that dress got more compliments than anything else I’ve ever worn to ANY show. In short: my roommate is amazing, and may have a place on the next Project Runway.

But I’ll quit boring you tales of small fashion miracles.

What I’m really getting at is that these shows have been so fun, so challenging, so musically educational, and have given me the best excuse to work with three women I would’nt otherwise have much opportunity to and to sing songs I would have no other reason to sing. It started out one thing, and became something so completely novel and endearing, and the audiences at these have been some of the most moving I’ve ever had the pleasure of performing for. I’ll write rock forever, but it’s priceless to know the other possibilities and to have tasted them.

Now – a brief photo-essay of my experience as one of the GIRLS!:

picture-13

picture-3

 

I Wasn’t Looking for Love… January 30, 2009

vday1This time last year, I was trying my damnedest not to be a Valentine’s Day Grinch, when along came the Girls!Girls!Girls! Valentine’s Day Edition to spare me the trouble. It was difficult for anyone (single, coupled, lonely, jaded) to not feel loved that evening as the whole night turned out to be a giant, singing, dancing (yes dancing) valentine from me and the girls to everyone in the audience.

We were unsure a year ago how many people would want to spend their Valentine’s Day at The Thirsty Ear (notably lively and energetic, but maybe not the first place to come to mind when seeking romance). But out of the cold and into the warm, candle-lit club they came in droves. So, this year it’s on again. For anyone who’s never attended a Girls! show, the quartet is made up of three ladies from other musical groups and myself. Our own projects run the gamut from rock to bluegrass, but we come together a few times a year to revive old standards (and a few not-so-old) in three- and four-part harmony.

So Columbians… or Columbusites… or those of you living in Columbus: If your plans for the 14th are looking a little, well, vague, allow me to clarify. No matter what you do earlier in the day or evening, arrive alone or with your date at The Thirsty Ear at 9pm and we’ll take care of the rest. We’ve never played a show that didn’t get a little out of hand (in the best sense of the phrase) at some point or another, so a good time is guaranteed.

See you there!

~a

 

The GHP Part II January 19, 2009

kids

….And so, after surviving an evening of teetering on the brink of embarrassment, I made it home by midnight – just in time to get a a decent night’s sleep before work the next day. J, however, was not so lucky; having procrastinated (a man after my own heart) he needed to be up by 4 a.m. to go home, pack and make the drive to North Carolina where he’d then be catching a red-eye to London, where his parents live. He looked like misery personified as he tucked the covers back over me and said, “good-bye.” It would be a week until I met him back in North Carolina. We are admittedly pathetic.

Myself, I had a few more days of work left before I could embark on my 11 days of vacation. But when Wednesday afternoon rolled around, the boss wrote us an e-mail saying, “Let’s all get out of here early and get to our families,” we rapidly obliged, and madness ensued.

First there was the annual Christmas Eve gathering at my grandmother’s house about an hour out of the city. Evil Twin was already there when my brother and I pulled in. Two years ago, Evil Twin drank a bit much at this little soiree. (Pomegranate martinis were the drink of the evening, I believe. I drank my first, and my Aunt refilled the glass. For the rest of the night, unbeknownst to anyone, Evil Twin downed both my refills and hers.) She ended up belligerently swearing at everyone in the car on the drive home, and we had to lock her in the garage with the dog until she was ready to pass out finally. So she expects to hear about it every year, and we never let her down. (Turns out that year was a fluke – no incidents since, but we still like to give her a hard time about it).

Christmas itself was a beautiful thing as always. No snow, sadly, but we awoke as usual, climbed the stairs, waited for Dad to come out and tell us (as he has every year since we were tiny), “Well, kids, I’m afraid it looks like Santa didn’t make it this year…” At this point everyone groans at this lame attempt, gives him a punch or two in the kidney, pushes past him to get to kitchen for some coffee and begins the unwrapping process. (What? This isn’t what happens in every American household on Christmas morning??)

This leg of the vacation went by quickly, and soon it was time for me to chuck my bags into Evil Twin’s car, which was so overloaded with their suitcases, gifts and dog that I had to cram myself into one-fourth of the back seat and insist that it was really fine and I was comfortable and ready to hit the road. She and her husband had offered to drive me back down to North Carolina to meet up with J at his family home there. It was a good deal; I couldn’t really complain.

But it was a long, claustrophobic haul down to North Carolina, with a few stops along the way (but if you ever have to stop for food in Charleston, WV, I have two words for you: Bluegrass Kitchen. Do it.). There was traffic and carsickness and FINALLY, at 8:00 p.m., at a little gas station outside of Winston-Salem, there was J.

I parted ways with Evil Twin and the In-Law, thanked them for the ride and invited them to come back to J’s for the New Year’s Eve party. Then it was time to get back on the road – we had 45 minutes of driving left, and a 9 o’clock reservation for dinner with J’s dad and sister. Time to meet the family…

(TBC)

~a

pups

 

Hello, 2009 January 4, 2009

Ending a long vacation is always painful (or should be, and maybe is indicative of the quality of said vacation), but this one – the first extensive time off I’ve had in a two years?? – will be particularly difficult to conclude. Met J’s family for the first time, along with many friends of his I’d heard about but never met in person, and it went as well – if not better – than I could’ve hoped. His little sister (18 and still finishing up high school in London) and I got along a little too well (we’re totally going rogue – whatever that means), and his big brother flew up from Florida and we cooked tacos for everyone together one night and breakfast the next morning. His dad took note of how much I liked the wine at dinner one night, and gave me a bottle to take home with me. (He was also so worried that I would starve due to my wheat allergy and not eating red meat that he made a special trip to the store and stocked the fridge with fruit and veggies some kind of tofu thing that was also very sweet:) There was beer pong in “The Club.” There was champagne, mulled wine, cheap beer, expensive beer. There was more food than I even want to think about right now. There was Rock Band into the wee hours. There will be an entire entry devoted to all this soon, but I’m still attempting to digest everything that’s occurred in the last two weeks so I can relate it to you in some kind of meaningful way. More to come when I get back to Ohio (that’s another story – we’re stuck here an extra unexpected evening….. not that I’m complaining).

Happy 2009!!!

~a

 

Make Room in Your Heart for The Steamroller** December 24, 2008

I love the way this guy’s mind works. (And no one draws a more emotive stick figure. No one). Anyway, in the timeless words of Jimmy Stewart (running through the snow-covered streets, elated to be alive), “Hey – Merry Christmas Everybody! MERRY CHRISTMAS!”

2008_christmas_special

**I-Chat discussion, December 24th, 2008, 9:45am:

(S is playing Christmas music on the office speakers)

a: Not gonna lie, S. There will always be a special place in my little, jaded heart for A Manheim Steamroller Christmas.

S: a, I would hope that everyone makes a little room in their heart for The Steamroller.

(Song changes to something awful by Michael Bolton)

a: Ahem. This no talent a## clown on the other hand……

S: Oh come on….

a: No way. G can have him.

(At the office Christmas party, I picked out a signed headshot of  Michael Bolton – with two Subway gift cards attached – in the White Elephant exchange, which was immediately stolen from me by a coworker)

S: Do I sense some bitterness?

(Long Pause….)

a: It hurts.

S: But it’s Christmas. Now’s the time to find it in your heart to forgive him.

a: Yeah, I know. These things just take time to heal.

THE END

 

Animals? Lights? Animals AND Lights?!?! December 19, 2008

skink1

Things We Learned From This Year’s Wildlights (our local zoo’s annual light display) Experience:

1) Wildlights = Good (but EFFING FREEZING) Times

2) I heart manatees. (And, apparently,  faux, light-up flamingos as well.)

3) Animals do not heart the cold. (Most were asleep in their indoor shelters, so – more lights than animals.)

4) Tights, cords, thick socks, fur-lined snow boots, t-shirt, sweater, fleece, fur-collared coat, hat and gloves = still not enough clothing for 2 hours of Wildlights.

5) There is a reptile called a skink. J hearts skinks.

6) Definitely something to do on an off night. I heard the lines for this thing on the weekends had reached up to two-hour waits. (Oh HELL no – I don’t wait two hours for much of anything). We went on a chilly, weekday evening and had the run of the place. In fact, there were plenty of moments when we found ourselves completely. alone. (muah-ah-ah…) 🙂

7) The hot chocolate is at THE FRONT OF THE PARK. (Halfway through our tour of the zoo, we were jonesing badly for something toasty to drink; little did we know we’d passed the hot cocoa when we went left instead of right at the entrance. Granted, its discovery at the tail end of our trip made for a grand finale. Drinking hot chocolate with REAL whipped cream by a fire whilst watching the animated light show around the pond = priceless.)

** I hereby solemnly swear, from this moment to eternity, to never again use the word “heart” as a verb.**

~a