26 December 2006

Happy Merry Christmahannukwanzikah

We did it! We're not QUITE through yet (not until work starts on a normal schedule again.) But for all intents and purposes, we have made it through bulk of the dreaded HOLIDAY SEASON.

I did pretty well for Christmas... I got almost everything I asked for:
1. a train ticket to connecticut (yay sue!)
2. gift certificates for geeky places like barnes & noble
3. new shoes (okay, okay - i bought these for myself)
4. cool books (travel books, and a little Caleb Carr... and okay, i bought those for myself, too)
5. lottery tickets (i still don't know if i won yet... i'll check later)
6. new, good-smelling bath stuff (yay, pitt-people!)
7. some new fabulous clothes
8. a place to hang out and be with cool people (yay, again, pitt-people)

There are a few little things that I missed out on, like socks, and receiving the magical ability to clean up my apartment by wiggling my nose. But overall, I'd say it was a pretty okay year, considering that it really had a monumental propensity to really, truly, madly, deeply suck. For the record, divorce proceedings and the holidays do NOT taste good together.

There were a few things, however, that I received this year that I didn't ask for, including:
1. a reminder of how lonely the holidays can be when you've lost something or someone very close to you,
2. a reminder of how friends can be as supportive as your family when you need them to be,
3. a lesson that i'm stronger than i think i am, and
4. a lesson that i'm more lonely than i want to admit.

And there were a few things that I didn't get, that I realize are very important to me:
1. a hug from someone who really, really loves me,
2. a vague grasp of where i'm heading in my life,
3. vanilla ice cream with hot fudge.

I just read an inane article written by a married woman addressed to women who are single this year during the holidays. It basically said that she pines for her days of being alone, because she didn't have to worry about gift no-no's, could stay at the mall as long as she liked, avoided lame presents from lame boyfriends, and could spend the money that she saved on gifts on a spa indulgences for herself. I would agree, except that she's totally wrong.

She "pines" for those Christmas pasts, when she didn't have to worry about compromising on a tree, or not having to buy the perfect gift for her guy... she says that "once your hitched for the holidays" you simply cannot please your man anyway, so it's better if there isn't one.

I noticed that the author doesn't pine for those picturesque moments where you're microwaving a single-serving frozen pizza for your holiday lunch still in your pyjamas with your hair uncombed and your teeth unbrushed because hey, no one's here that cares how you smell. She never mentions putting on the James Bond marathon on Spike TV just to hear someone else's voice in your empty apartment. She omits the nagging thoughts of why you just weren't good enough for someone that you tried to love to stick around any more.... or what's wrong with you if there hasn't been one to love you yet.

Yea, I'll admit, I'm having a minor pity-party today. But that's kind of the point, really. One thing that I'm sure this happily-married woman chooses not to remember from her fabulous single-holidays-of-yore when she jaunted to malls and spas alone is that you are... painfully... ALONE. And as much as the holidays are about joy and happiness and peace on earth, they are also about remembering what's important. And companionship and love is important. I'm sure she wasn't skipping to her Brazilian session a-way back then, joyous that the she-male at the spa with the hot wax and masochistic cotton strips was her only holiday companion.

I'm wondering if she has a touch of the 'Christmas tree is greener on the other side' syndrome. Nowhere does she mention that the one thing that overrides all of these concerns when you're single is that nagging voice that you constantly try to play down in the back of your head... no matter how confident, self-assured, and optimistic you are, if you're a single woman during the holiday season, there's an undercurrent of fear that this will be every holiday in the future... That "alone" will become the status quo. Alone, with cats.

Being alone during the holidays sucks. It's just that simple. And yes, there are worse things, like being abused, or being hungry, or sick, or being in a horrible place like Darfur. And no, being married isn't easy... nor is finding the perfect gift (or receiving the most imperfect one.) But I've learned over the years that everyone has problems, and there is no sense trying to see whose is worse than others'. It just doesn't make any sense to compare. So don't tell me that the holidays are "better" when you're single. Cuz you're wrong.


I'd like to give a very special thanks go to the pitt-people, whose family embraced me as if I were one of their own, and treated me like everyone else - even including me in their very bizarre pajama ritual... Thanks for adopting me, even though I was the only Christmas orphan this year.

23 December 2006

Yellow Ribbons...

I was walking around the city today - it was a GORGEOUS day - and I passed a church. And all along the fence were yellow, green and blue ribbons...

They were tributes and prayer wishes to troops that have died (yellow), are serving (blue) or have returned from active duty (green.)
The saddest part was looking at the ages on the tribute slips... 20, 23, 21, 19, 26... All died protecting our way of life... protecting what they loved.

I cried today, for all the families, friends, and loved ones who will never see their children, friends, fathers, and husbands return... And for the people who are serving for us abroad and aren't going to be with their families, but instead, will be fearing for their lives...

So over this holiday season, let's take a moment to remember those who are alone, lost, apart, or saddened this time of year... it's easy to overlook the heartbroken amidst the gifts, trees, food and festivities...

Gave him the wrong finger

My holiday cards this year:

Happy New Year, everyone...

21 December 2006

Life as a guy

Dating, from the men's perspective.... (yikes)

A friend of mine sent me a video this morning (Thanks Chris)

(click picture or click here.

Men, are women really this psychotic?

And meanwhile, you might want to wipe that cheesy-ass grin off your face while you're walking down the street.

(just kidding)

(sort of)

20 December 2006

Adventures in Speed Dating

A few weeks ago, I met a friend of mine and his girlfriend at a fabulous little bar called Savoy. After a few drinks, we were inevitably lamenting over the plight of being – as the ever-optimistic web likes to put it – “suddenly single” in the vast and bizarre world of New York City. The conversation turned into online dating, upon which I’ve briefly touched in this blog, and alternatives to the crap-shoot that is online dating, and the alternatives offered.

This is when the topic of New York on “Speed” came up. Apparently, there is a vast world of “Speeding” in this town, of which I’ve been previously blissfully unaware. I’m not talking about the drug (or, I should clarify that if there *is* a rash of stimulant use in NYC, I continue to be blissfully unaware), but the idea of Speed Dating, and the other new-to-me concepts of “Speed Friending” (the same as speed dating, but without the sexual aspect and gender requirements) and “Speed Networking” (sort of a speed friending for professional reasons.)

Ready to dabble in anything new that would give me a basis for a good blog (and readily propped in my adventuresome spirit by several very good Cosmopolitans thanks to Michael, the Savoy bar tender), I went immediately home and signed up for a speed dating adventure. (Thanks a lot, Paul.)

I should add a disclaimer here... While I admit that I signed up for the speed dating that late evening when I got home, I didn’t recall doing this until I checked my email the next morning when the subject line: “Congratulations! You are confirmed!” greeted me. I had to take a few moments to remember, exactly, what I was confirmed FOR. Not wanting to lose my momentum of adventure (and not wanting to lose my deposit for the evening) I bravely went forward and last night, made my first foray into the bizarre world of Speed Dating.

Arriving at the location was a bit of an adventure itself. Apparently, local R&B performer Myame was performing at the upstairs dance club as well, so there was a line of about 15 men waiting outside the front door, all decked out in baggy jeans, sideways baseball caps, hoodie sweatshirts, and lots of heavy gold bling. I hate to stereotype, and didn’t want to judge anyone for anything before I give them a chance, but it just didn’t strike me as the typical crowd lining up for a speed dating. Resolving to suck it up and make the best of it, I traipsed up to one of the several 250+ pound bouncers at the door and said – as bravely as my karate training would let me – “Is there a speed dating thingie here tonight, or am I in the wrong place?” Yea, it sounded just as weak and pathetic as it reads.

Thankfully, the reply I received was: “Yep, in the basement.” Whew!! At this point, I was let through the velvet rope in front of the other crowd, and escorted rather unceremoniously through a blank door and a set of dark stairs leading precipitously downwards into … yep … the basement. I have to give the organizers props for this automatic screening of potential applicants. After all, if you weren’t scared off by the crowd at the door, the four bouncers, or the descent from an unmarked door into a dark stairwell, then you have to have some set of nerves.

Upon entering, our two hosts beckoned me over and gave me my brochure: A photocopied paper with an ice-skating hedgehog on the cover, wearing a tie, carrying a martini, and wearing a scarf emblazoned with the logo of the speed dating company. (I swear I’m not making this up. I don’t think I could if I tried.) On the corner of the front page: “F4”, which stands for “female” and “table 4” which was to be my assigned seat for the first part of the evening. On the inside cover: The rules, and then the “Selection Form”… a series of blanks labeled “Name of Date”, “Notes”, and the ever-so-personal choice of Y or N. That’s basically what the whole thing comes down to, right? Y or N.

I got a drink – screwdriver #1 – and found a stool near two other women: JA and IL. They were friends who came together on their first speed dating experience, and we bonded pretty quickly over the first few moments. The need to preserve a bit of anonymity was apparent from the beginning, though, and the psychology professor was hesitant about telling me where she taught until she reconsidered and said “Well, since you’re a woman, I can tell you. But I am not going to tell any of the guys!!” Fair enough. Apparently it was also a bit strange – as a woman – to come alone. Once again we see the social differences between men and women here. All of the men came alone, but most of the women came in groups of 2 or 3 for moral support. I am not sure if that’s a good thing or not, since women (as you’ll see later) can be quite nasty when they talk about men. (I know, I know… not telling you anything groundbreaking here.)

I don’t quite know what I expected of the men, but there was a good variety there – short, tall, suits, casual, artistic, businesslike, ‘big boned’, thin, and every skin tone was represented. Overall, however, I have to say that the selection of women was far more attractive than the men… but who am I to judge?

So the rules as they were explained to us was that we would have 6 minutes to chat with each dude, and then they would ring a ‘gong’ and the gents would move to the next table for the next six minutes. We’d do this in two acts… with each person talking to 6 people in each act. I was perched on a very hard to describe box that was lit from within and was very uncomfortable. It also put me a good 8 inches above my date, which was exceedingly unhelpful since I was taller than – oh – everyone in the room. As I sat perched on the edge of my lava-lamp-seat, I met my first date… Here, gentle readers, is the play. I will include the notes that I wrote as I met the men, and recall what I can from our conversations…

Act 1: The first six
I.C.: My notes: “Asian. Scarf.” IC is a very artistically dressed gentleman with intricately shaved facial hair that would fit seamlessly into the Parisian beatnik café scene of Audrey Hepburn’s Funny Face. Very nice to talk to. Asian, his family is from Korea, but he’d lived in the US for most of his life and was in some creative line of work. But honestly I don’t recall much of this first interview, except for his very dramatic black and white scarf, and that when he stood to shake my hand after the gong rang, he barely came up to my waist. Sorry, IC, that would be an “N”.

P.G: I have no recollection whatsoever of this one. And no notes. Oops. I think I was still getting the hang of talking to them while not feeling awkward about taking notes... No recollection equals an “N”. Sorry, PG, my bad.

C.L.: My notes: “Greek, Glasses”. I do recall a checkered jacket, too, and that once the conversation warmed up, he did seem like a nice guy. He screamed “geek” in the traditional sense, with the thick-rimmed black glasses (is that chic, or geek? I can’t keep up), and we chatted a while about my visit to Athens in 2004 and how the Greeks do yogurt like no one else in the world. Not a great chatter, though, and I found myself starting up the majority of the conversation. Probably a "N"….

B.G.: My notes: “Car Salesman. Feet.” I couldn’t follow the conversation with BG most of the time, because it was like talking to three or four different people at the same time. He couldn’t sit still, and was so intent on telling me tales of his previous bad dates, that I barely got a word in edgewise. At one point, he actually said “Enough about me Let’s talk about you But don’t tell me the boring stuff like what you do for a living You’re hot so I’m already interested What do you do for fun I hope you like surfing Have you ever been to Colorado to ski” That was an actual sentence. I’m not kidding. I don't think he actually took a breath for the entire 6 minutes. He also kept taking off his shoes and scratching his toes during our conversation. I never knew that 6 minutes could be so long, or so exhausting. That would be a definite “N”.

F.Z.: My notes: “Tech guy.” Poor FZ – I couldn’t hear a word he was saying. Not only was Myame cranking up some serious bass above our heads, but the conversations in the room reached a peak at this point, and it suddenly seemed as if everyone was yelling. I’m not a loud talker either, so most of the 6 minutes was spent saying “Could you repeat that?” Sorry, FZ, that’s a “N”.

B.R. My notes: “Real estate. 50.” This was, honestly, the first one with real potential. Dressed casually, with a “few extra pounds”, BR had a great sense of humor and we chatted very easily. We had a really nice chat until about 4 minutes in, when I found out that he lied about his age to get into the speed dating group. He was significantly older than the age groups delineated by the event (women: ages 29-37, men: ages 32-42) and made me wonder how much else of his “I ran three companies and did really well and I’m now retired and I just put Real Estate on my business card so that it has something on there to fill my time” schpeil was less BR and more BS. It’s too bad, really, because we really hit it off otherwise. Call me crazy and maybe I’m a little hypersensitive about things right now, but in the last year of my life, I’ve had enough of men lying to me that I don’t feel like starting anything out with another lie…. Sorry, BR… that would be a regrettable “N.”

At this point we took a break for some “snacks,” which basically consisted of cheap sugar cookies, and some nachos with salsa. The hosts of the event must have shelled out a whole $2.50 for the highly-promoted “snacks provided”. Honestly, though, most people weren’t interested in heading to the bar for the stale tortilla chips, but for another drink. BR followed me to the bar, and we chatted during the 15 minute intermission, and really had a nice chat, which was – I’ll admit – happily lubricated by screwdriver #2.

During the second round, the guys were stationary, and the women rotated around This was actually a bit preferable since most of the men stood up when I approached and could see how tall I was. I’m not sure how that will affect my feedback ratings, but I hope not too poorly.

Act 2: The Second Six
My notes: “Italian. Bald.” Here’s where I have discovered the best pickup line ever: “What’s your favorite vegetable?” I’m not sure how we got onto the topic of food (probably coming off the tortilla chips, and the fact that he is Italian), but we started bonding over the fact that both of us dislike the slimy texture of fresh tomatoes. SD was – as my notes indicate – Italian and bald, but also very fit and very fun to talk to. He was energetic, funny, and great at chatting, which is a severely underrated skill in my honest opinion! Shorter than me, yes, but not so much that it was awkward, and later on I heard that he is a cartoonist, which is uber-cool. Hm… definitely has surprising potential to be a “Y”.

W.A.: My notes: “Tie, France.” This was the one guy in the room wearing a suit, and who was almost as tall as I am. Definitely the best looking, objectively. But he was definitely a quiet one, which was a little bit of an adjustment from SD, who was quite chatty and energetic. I don’t think he there was anything negative about WA, but I could definitely see why he says he has trouble getting dates. He’s very quiet, and I’m sure the bar scene in New York doesn’t fit with his personality. We had a nice conversation about France, though his favorite city being Paris (and not Lyon) might be a serious problem for me. The girls later said he was boring, but I’m speaking from experience when I say that maybe boring is not as bad as it sounds (and it’s a lot better than the alternative, which is someone who is TOO exciting for a relationship’s own good. Ooops, my baggage is showing again! Sorry…) Hmmm… have to think about this one a little more…

A.S.: My notes: “Brown M&M’s, Ears.” Okay, yea, I know that by this time you can tell by my comments when that second drink really started kicking in. But honestly, the M&M thing was not as far a stretch as you might think! Here, the new ‘favorite vegetable’ question took a turn into ‘what’s your most favorite (and least favorite) M&M color?” (For the record, my most favorite is green, my least favorite is brown... as was his - hence the "brown M&M's note.") He also had very sticky-out ears – hence the ears comment. A great chatter, and a psychology major as well, we had a nice conversation, but no sparks for me. He dressed well, which makes sense, since he works for a major high-end fashion retailer. If I cared more about shoes and couture clothing, he’d be a “Y”, but sadly, I like being stuck in an unfashionable rut, so I'm afraid the desire for handbags and haute couture straight pants won't turn it from a "N".

D.Y.: My notes: “Short. Jaded.” Oooh, that’s kind of harsh, isn’t it? Sadly, it was also true. He was very short, but in the interest of making the best of things, I kept the conversation lively. I asked him the “vegetable” question (it really sparked some interesting conversation with AS, so I tried it again), and he seemed to appreciate the change of pace. He told me that he was a frequent speed dater, and that he was a little tired of the scene… or it seemed to me that he was just tired in general. He admitted that this was the first time he’d been asked about vegetables, and couldn’t decide his favorite. I broadened the field: “Okay, what’s your favorite vegetable MEDLEY?” and he froze again… apparently the man doesn’t like vegetables. But his lack of health food decision-making abilities aside, there were no sparks, so DY is a “N.”

J.P.G.: My notes: “Tall! 4th Grade teacher.” Note the most important thing here to me – height. It was the first comment in my last two guys, and while I proudly managed to stay away from asking everyone about their profession (a common and oft-repeated conversation), we had a nice long chat about teaching 4th grade, and how the kids at that age aren’t old enough to put on more than a façade of attitude that’s quickly removed by a good teacher. A nice guy, really, but really didn’t react when I asked if he liked to travel… and in my life, travel is a priority, so I think I’m going to move on… sorry, JPG, the kids will have to do without me for now… “N”.

R.G.: My notes: “Beard. Short.” I should have added “no conversational skills at all” but it didn’t fit in the box. I’m not a big fan of facial hair either, so all in all, three strikes. Sorry, RG, but it didn’t’ take long to reach an “N”…

Finale: Post-party Catty Session
Whew!!! After 12 guys and nearly 2 hours of constant talking, the end of the evening was welcome. At this point, I noticed, the girls suddenly started huddling in groups of 3-4, and I was sucked back into a conversation with the women I met at the beginning of the night, JA and IL. The first, pressing question: “Did you have any Yesses?” I kind of hedged a bit, and said something non-committal like “It was rather overwhelming, I’m going to have to think about it a little more,” at which point they told me that they thought the group was a bunch of losers and they didn’t think they had found anyone the least bit interesting. Then, they started picking apart each one… I won’t get into details, but if you’re a woman, imagine your worst session of nitpicking the selection at a bar, and you get the gist. (Men – trust me, you just don’t want to know.)

They did manage to say that the Italian guy was the best of the bunch, and when I told them that I had busted BR’s age faux pas, they started scribbling madly in their pamphlets and seemed horrified. Oops, sorry BR. Overall, though, they seemed generally put off by the whole thing, and I’m not sure if they were too harsh, or if I’m just too nice. Probably a little bit of both.

The hosts told us that the next steps were to go home, log on to our accounts, and there we would find the list of gentlemen (or ladies) that we’d met, and that we should check off the ones we were interested in meeting. If there were mutual “checks”, then we would receive each other’s email addresses, and - here’s a great quote for you – “The rest is up to you consenting adults.”

Overall it was a fascinating study of men and women interacting, and – as the host stated at one point – this pretty much instantaneously removes the ‘hardest’ part of dating, which is that first face-to-face meeting, and that first conversational hurdle. True, but it’s also hysterically fun to do! I’ll definitely do it again – if not to pick up men, then to just meet new people. In the end, the women were just as interesting to meet as the men, and I suggested the idea of combining the “speed dating” and “speed friending” into one event. After all, even if you don’t want to speak with the men in the room again, who knows if you’ll meet a really cool person to be a hang-out buddy for your next speed-dating adventure… Now that wouldn’t be such a bad idea…

The end result and review would be that I had a shockingly fabulous time! I was literally smiling the entire way home from the experience, and told my office mate today that she should try it out, even though she's seriously dating someone already. It's such a weird experience, but so much fun to socialize in such a bizarre, forced-yet-comfortable way. It was an amazing confidence booster, after some duds in the last few weeks, and I'll definitely do it again, when I've recovered from the screwdrivers!

The after party:
A sort of sad end note… BG – the car salesman with the itchy feet – was hanging out and did manage to try to pick us up with a lame “So, where’s a good bar nearby to party?” line. I told him to head to 9th avenue, and no, I wasn’t going to join him. I think, when I left, he was the last one in the bar, eating the leftover stale chips and trying to talk the waitress into joining him to party that night… and that he would buy the drinks. I can only hope that he washed his hands first.

18 December 2006

Long live the Roxy

I went rollerskating Wednesday night - yes, rollerskating, which I haven't done since I was approximately 8 years old - at a rink in the city that's regularly shut down for underage drinking violations. I wasn't quite sure what to expect with a weekly roller rink in NYC, but assumed it was appropriately skeevy, and that afterwards I would need to soak in a multi-gallon bath of Purell in order to de-grossify myself.

The rink is called the "Roxy," and touts itself as a pseudo-disco club. On Fridays, it's a gay dance club, and when it manages to avoid being closed by authorities, Saturday is a regular dance club. The discreet entrance (which is a nice way of saying "hidden" and "scary") is on West 18th Street, a deserted alley with nothing on it other than old warehouse-like buildings, chain link fences, a parking lot and some construction equipment. The faded blue neon sign looked kind of ghostly in the rainy evening, and you could hear it buzzing. It was like a movie set, complete with post-rain spatter and rats rummaging around the construction sites garbage cans. The bouncer at the door checking ID's was the complete package of club-bouncer stereotypes: Monosyllabic, tall, muscular, and dressed head-to-toe black puffy jacket and black baseball cap. It seemed almost a parody to be signing a release that he handed me that said "I accept responsibility for any injuries maintained while rollerskating." Slightly incongruous, yes.

My friend who accompanied me wasn't in the mood. But I had convinced her to go for 1/2 hour at most... knowing that it would be gross and we'd probably just head to a nearby Thai place for dinner and vow never to speak of this silly outing again. When we arrived at 8:30, we didn't expect anyone to be there... and we were pretty close. It was fairly quiet. After entering through a stairway lit with 6 blue light bulbs, we went to the "admission" booth and duly paid our $24 for skating and rentals.

For some reason, these people think that drunk people can hang on to minute slips of paper, because you got a paper when you paid, a paper when you rented your skates, and a paper when you checked your bags. When we entered, it was like a 1980's dance club... colored spotlights, black lights, neon green palm trees hanging from the ceiling, and lots... and lots... of roller skaters. Early in the evening, there were a fair number of us newbies represented and my friend and I took to the dance floor strapped into our four-wheelers. We looked ridiculous. I felt like I was 90 pretending to be 9. Every time I tried to push off, I'd pinwheel like a log roller, and simply grab anyone around me in order to stay off the floor. Remarkably, I didn't fall once! In the first hours, at least. I remembered the lessons I was taught in my first rollerblading class (bend your knees, stay low, and when you're losing your balance, don't stand up) and while I didn't look very cool, I at least stayed off the floor and the flying dancers around me.

The crowd was fascinating. I rarely see such a variety of people in one place in New York city. While the city is diverse, populations of like-people tend to flock together. Not so at the Roxy. There were African Americans, Latin Americans, people in their early 20's, and plenty who were in their 60's or 70's too. The fashions ran the gamut as well. From polka-dotted hot pants, to 1950's poodle-skirts (in camouflage print), from sequin socks to velvet bell-bottoms... it ran the proverbial gamut. You'll notice, however, that my entire sense of the fashion world of rollerskating is below the waistline. That's because - as my friend so eloquently put it at one point in the evening - "This is all about butts." When you're going around-and-around the floor, trying to stay upright, the place you stare is - you got it - at the butt in front of you. As a result, you start to identify people by their various leg wear and footwear... and when a new person joined the circling, I recognized that they were new not by their faces, but by their butt. "Oh, haven't seen those ripped jeans before"... "Look, the polka-dotted hot pants are back"... "The one in the white capris is really terrible!"... Only when there was something completely out of character (flashing light-up wheels, ridiculously ugly terrycloth headbands, or someone skating backwards), was the butt-staring alleviated.

The other thing about roller rinks is that people are constantly touching you. Whether your going to slow and someone feels the need to propel you along, or you're going to fast, and you have to grab the person in front of you to slow down, or if someone in front of you is falling and you reach out to offer them support... you're constantly bumping, supporting, leaning, touching, or otherwise maneuvering other people on the floor. (Note to all you single girls out there - this would be a great place to pick up guys... just run into one and fall down... he will inevitably help you to your feet and offer you a smile! Also, note to all those daters - they do play slow tunes, which turned into "couple" dances... so come to cuddle too...)

After a beer or two, the number of newbies falling suddenly increased. We'd been there over an hour, and the alcohol intake was increasing, and I think that either the confidence was overstated, or the balance was undermined. But it seemed that we suddenly were dodging flying people (or piles of people) at an increasing number. When people did fall, it was like a community effort to get them back on their feet. The security personnel (subtly wearing white shirts that said "ROXY SECURITY" in block letters) would rush over, and stand in front of the fallen person, directing oncoming skater traffic around the downed individual. Other skaters would stop to help, and within seconds, everyone was back in the groove.

Not wanting to break the groove, I managed to go down once myself. Not hard - and in my own defence, someone clipped my wheels - but enough to take another newbie down with me. Security was there in a blink, helping us both up and asking if we were OK. After a bevy of giggles and apologies, we were back up and running. No worse for wear, but definitely in need of some Purell.

By the end of our three hours of skating, I'd decided that one fall and countless bumps, grabs, pokes, pushes, and elbows were enough, so I called it quits. To tired to figure out the rainbows of slips of paper I had shoved in my pocket, I simply placed all my slips in front of the various coat check, ID check, and skate rental people to let them choose which color they liked best. Eventually I did end up with my own footwear, clothing, purse and ID back.

I'll go back, because it was super-fun and I promised my sister some photos. Next time I'll bring more friends with me to reserve one of the booths along the side. I'm also bringing my extra large bottle of Purell.

12 December 2006

Beth's Rules of Online Dating

So I finally broke into the bizarre and strange world of online dating in the last week. I have covered the gamut, I think, from Match.com, eharmony, Yahoo personals and yes... I have even ventured into the strange world that is Craig's List.

And while trolling this vast, virtual-reality meat market, I've come to the conclusion that precious few people know how to write / act / behave in the online world. So I've decided to offer some guidance to what I would assume are some of the basic rules of online dating....

1. Always post a photo
This may seem pretty straight forward, and you always see the disclaimers that "posting a photo will result in more responses!" Very true!! However, what they do NOT do is require that you post a photo of YOURSELF. Which brings us to the nuances of this fairly obvious rule number one:
a) Make sure it's a photo of ... wait, this may come as a shock... yourself.
b) Make sure it's a photo that's been taken within the last 15 years. We know you were hot when you were 22. But if you're now 48, that 22 year old doesn't exist any more. Love it. Leave it. And move on with your bad self.

This inevitably leads to other sub-rules, which are sometimes specific to the sites in question:
a) On Craig's List, don't post some stupid GIF image, just so you have the IMG marker next to your posting's listing. It's misleading and annoying.
b) On Match.com, try to post a photo that at least vaguely resembles whoever greets in mirrors when you walk in front of them. If you're 20 pounds (or more) heavier than when you took that photo, or over 5 years older, or have gotten you hair cut, shaved, grown out, or it's receded beyond recognition, then take another photo.
c) Yahoo and Match... smile!! For God's sake, if you try to look "tall, dark and and mysterious" you'll more likely end up resembling a child predator than a sexy date. Only a few men in this world can pull off that look, and they are famous for it. You are not one of them. So unless you have extremely bad teeth (in which case I recommend braces)... lighten up and SMILE!!!!

2. Be honest, with caution.
One guy I spoke with lamented that most of the women online posted their age as 10-20 years below their actual, real life age. Now, I'm a young woman, so perhaps this is a tad snobbish of me. But when you expect a 32 year old, and a 47 year old shows up for drinks, don't you think he's going to notice fairly quickly that you weren't honest? And I hate to be old fashioned, but when the first thought he has is "Oh, she lied to me," don't you think you're starting off on a bad foot? If you want to tackle this obvious age discrimination with a sense of humor, why not put your age at 102 years old? Sure, you will have to hit the online market a little harder when you don't come up in the "age match" searches... but at least it shows you have a sense of humor. This age issue, however, comes with it's own message for the men out there...

3. Date someone vaguely close to your own age.
Is it really all that ridiculous to be asking you to look for a woman that was born within the same decade as you? I'm amazed and flabbergasted by the number of 40- and 50- and yes, even 60-something men whose "age wanted" limits are 22-30. Are you kidding? I know that having a young, fabulous looking woman on your arm makes you feel better about your hair recession, pot belly and aching back... but you can HIRE a 22 year old for that. Why would you want to have dinner and a conversation with someone who wasn't even born when you graduated from college?

4. Fill out the form
While it's annoying, yes, the "fill in the blanks" really do help. Leaving everything blank except some random paragraph that says "Fun loving guy looking for a soul mate. Looking for someone who loves to have a good time, has no baggage, likes to travel, and likes to go to restaurants. If you're this person, we could be a match! Write me." I guess there is some really GREAT news for these guys! This just about describes EVERY WOMAN ON THE PLANET. You might as well type in something equally helpful, like "Wanted: Female with breasts. Write me!". After all, it's been a while since I've met a woman who did NOT like to have fun, who didn't like restaurants, and who didn't want a soul mate. The only hang up, really, is the "no baggage" part... and the bad news is - asking for no baggage is like asking for someone who doesn't breathe oxygen... they're there, but VERY hard to find and not very much fun. Baggage is what makes us ourselves, and if you don't want baggage, get a puppy. If you're looking for a real woman, instead of stating the unhelpfully obvious about what you want in a partner (and at the same time stating nothing about yourself), why not fill out those helpful little sections that ask for things like - favorite books, movies, hobbies, and other randomly lame yet somehow very informative things? Just give it a shot... take some time to introduce yourself... or have a friend write it... if not for anything else than for laughs.

This leads us nicely to the interaction phase of the rulebook... when the "winks", initial "hello" emails and nice little "courtesy responses" are all used up, and things are actually progressing to real words that humans use to communicate. It's at this point you want to try to stick to some of the following guidelines:

5. Attaching additional photos is good! Attaching photos of your genitalia is bad.
What, exactly, do you think we're going to do with a photo (usually about the quality of a poor cell phone picture) of your penis? Do you think this sparks some sort of desire to meet you for dinner? Do you think it inspires conversation, inspiration, and intelligent banter? Sorry, but it does not. There's no need to prove that you have a member... what we really are interested in is the head on your shoulders, if it exists. We'll just give you the benefit of a doubt that the rest of your anatomy is par for the course.

6. "You're Hot, Let's Meet" is not an appropriate way to ask for a date of anyone other than Paris Hilton.
In this day and age of Dateline child internet predator stings, I am finding that a few emails back and forth really bring out the best in men... and the worst. You'd be surprised how quickly the text deteriorates into a "you're hot, I'm horny, let's meet" kind of conversation. Yes, women like sex too... but we don't want to admit to that right off the bat!! At least make an attempt to fake some intelligent banter before you try to douse us with drinks and talk of your bedroom prowess.

7. Do your homework - read the posting. Yes, it's boring, and the photos are more fun, and yes, it's more fun to fire off an email than to read through the stuff that she took the time to type in. But it's better than being surprised that I'm 5'11" tall, even though it says so right on my profile.

I'm sure that this is just the beginning... since I've only just dipped my toe into the world of online singles, I can state the obvious when I say that it's pretty overwhelming and terrifying. Hopefully things will improve... I'll keep you, well... "posted".

10 December 2006

Brian Williams vs. Fish n Flush

Before I start this commentary on the esoteric and mystical differences between "mock" news and "real" news, let me say that for 11 years, "real" news paid my bills, so I am still a fan of it... in a way. But this evening, when faced with the decision between the 6:30pm network news blathering or listening to "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" on NPR, I didn't hesitate before I switched to the satirical bent of Peter Sagal and his motley crew. (One day, I swear I'm going to be a contestant!)

At this point, I wondered why I was making that switch... and why, overall, ratings were floundering for the somber, information-driven evening broadcasts, while folks like John Stewart, Steven Colbert, and Peter Sagal were soaring in the ratings race, and hailing from number one positions in iPod podcasts and cable shows.

And the answer, as I was listening, was suddenly clear.

It is the Fish n' Flush.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I've decided that the likes of Katie Couric and Brian Williams are not facing declining ratings and advertiser revenue because of the new working hours of dual-income households (causing no one to be home in time for a 6:30pm broadcast anyway); not because of hundred-channel cable boxes fracturing the audience of valued Nielsen eyeballs; not because - as the Republicans would probably have you believe - the decline of moral values leads us away from the somber tales of woe and political misdeeds of our world...

Instead, it's because of things like... the Fish n' Flush.

Let me explain.

As I was listening to NPR's "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me," I heard news about the Iraq Study Group's report on the war and reaction from Donald Rumsfeld and others, the death of former Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet, the space shuttle launch, and the military coup currently underway in Fiji (or is that over now?)...

But I also heard about Britney Spears being caught sans culottes by the paparazzi (for the second time... oops, she did it again), and the fabulous Fish n' Flush - a brilliant combination of a toilet and fish tank.

You'd never hear about these things from Brian Williams, you know...

Only on such venues as the John Stewart Show, and Wait Wait would there be such a precious combination of up to date news of the day, and, well... humor. That's what is really missing in these 6:30 broadcasts, you know. I think the next generation is looking for people that can not only show you that they are intelligent, but also demonstrate that they think the world is as ridiculous and hysterical as you do. This humorous approach is a necessary release from the stresses of the day's work, so in effect, you've got two birds with one stone: Headlines, with a dose of slapstick. Is the news of Former Secretary of State James Baker's commentary on the Iraq Study Group's official report any less newsworthy coming from comedienne Paula Poundstone than it is from NBC News' White House correspondent David Gregory? (Note: I happen to know that David is a very funny guy, so I hope he doesn't take this as a slam to his humor level. But you get my point.)

So, in sum, I suggest that if newspaper sales continue to flag; if ratings for the 6:30 broadcast news disappoints in the ratings race, let's not blame Katie's short hemlines... Instead, I suggest that Fish n' Flush invest in a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal.

The stocks would soar.

08 December 2006

Soundtrack to Life!


So, here's how it works:
1. Open your library (iTunes, Winamp, Media Player, iPod, etc)
2. Put it on shuffle
3. Press play
4. For every question, type the song that's playing
5. When you go to a new question, press the next button
6. Don't lie and try to pretend you're cool...

Opening Credits: Clocks - Coldplay
Waking Up: Dead Man's Party - Oingo Boingo
Falling In Love: How to Save a Life - The Fray
Fight Song: I Write Sins Not Tragedies - Panic! At the Disco
Breaking Up: Empire - Queensryche
Prom: Boom Boom Ba - Metisse
Life: Dream On - Aerosmith
Mental Breakdown: Love Will Come Through - Travis
Driving: Hanging - Kristian Leontiou
Flashback: Don't Cry (Original) - Guns N' Roses
Getting back together: Gasoline - Moist
Wedding: In The Air Tonight - Phil Collins
Birth of Child: Christmas Bells, Carousels & Time (Instrumental) - Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Final Battle: Ready to Go - Republika
Death Scene: On Every Street - Dire Straits
Funeral Song: Touche (Feat. Lee Richards & John Kosco Of Dropbox) - Godsmack
End Credits: Karma (Karmastition Remix) - Alicia Keys

07 December 2006

Did you ask me question?

Name: Check.
DOB: Yep, I have one of those too.
Birthplace: A hospital
Current location: My apartment
Eye color: Hazel
Hair Color: Blond-ish
Height: Right now, probably about 5'. If I stand up, I'm 5'11"
Heritage: White woman here. I think there's some Lebanese in there. It accounts for the green hue. Or that might be the tuna fish I had for lunch.
Piercings: Some
Tattoos: (see "Turd The Makeover" blog)

Band/Singer: Right now? Kristian Leontiou
Song: "Shining"
Genre of Music: Sadly, it's mass-market pop. Sorry Jim.
Color(s): Blue-green, or any sunset colors.
TV show(s): Medium, BSG (geek-alert!), Daily Show, Family Guy
Movie(s): Casino Royale. And Toy Story. I'm bipolar like that.
Food: Yes.
Store: According to my credit card statement, that would be Taca Airlines and the chinese restaurant down the street.
#: Huh?
Favorite drink: Egg nog.
Clothing Brand: I'm wearing Gap right now. Pretty much head to toe. Eeh gads. That's embarassing.
Shoe Brand: 9 West, or Asics.
Animal: I'm a human, I'm pretty sure.
Pizza topping: CHEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSEEEEEEEEEEEEE (with slight deviation into pepperoni sometimes.)
Season: Anything but the dead of winter.
Month: Too many choices here. Pass.
Holiday: Mole Day (October 23rd)
Flower: Anything growing in the wild.

Sunny or rainy: Sunny... unless it's a tropical storm in a balmy place. Then thunderstorms are cool.
Chocolate or vanilla: Vanilla... with chocolate sauce.
Fruit or veggie: I said, vanilla with chocolate sauce!!! Can't you read?
Night or day: Cow.
Sour or sweet: Salty.
Love or money: Yes, please.
Phone or in person: DEFINITELY in person. Sex is always better that way.
Poor & happy or rich & miserable: I refuse to answer that question because it's stupid.
Looks or personality: Ditto.
Coffee or tea: Egg nog.
Hot or cold: HOT

Goal for this coming year: Get a divorce. Get a new apartment. Do 100 pushups (at once, not during the whole year.)
Most missed memory: Well, that's dumb. How would I know if it's a missing memory?
Best physical feature: Hair?
First thought waking up: What's that beeping? Wow, that's annoying. Hope that stops soon.

Do you want to get married? If you already are, how long? I choose option d: none of the above.
Do you want to have kids or do you already have kids? I married one already. They're overrated.
If so, how many: At least 59.
What do you want to name your kids or what are their names already? Bubblegum.

Dance in the rain: Absolutely.
Shower daily: Um. No comment.
Like thunderstorms: Yay! That would be a YES.
Sing: Some people would call it singing...
Play an instrument: Digeridoo
Think you are good looking: Trick question - if I say "no" then I have poor self esteem. If I say "yes" then I'm egomaniacal. I think I am attractive to some people, and unattractive to others. I think I'm okay, but don't know if I'd want to sleep with me.. I'd have to get to know myself a little better.
Get along with your parents: No comment.

Can you whistle: With what?
Right or left handed: I have both of my hands, thank goodness.
Your bedtime: About an hour ago.
Biggest fear: Loneliness.
3 things you can't live without: Air, Water, Gravity.
Color of your room: Yellow. But the room with the padded walls is pink....
Siblings: Yes.
Middle name: Yes.
Pets: One husband, but he's been adopted by someone else, so he's leaving soon.
Nicknames: Roonie (don't ask)
Thoughts on abortion: Hm, that's a doozie of a question after softballing me with the "nickname" question... Going from "Roonie" to "abortion" is just weird. Who are you exactly?
If you could be anywhere right now where would you be: In a cab heading to the airport to catch a plane to a cruise around the world that would last for a year. Or eating vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce.
Do you wear contacts/glasses: I wear my sunglasses at night.... (now that song is stuck in your head, isn't it? And if you don't know what I'm talking about, then you're too young to be reading this blog, so go away.)
Are you afraid of the dark: Depends if there's scary music playing.

06 December 2006

What's up in my life... randomness.

i have a zit in my ear.

and i'm going rollerskating tonight, which i'm REALLY looking forward to.... but probably won't help the zit in my ear.

i'm wearing a cute new bra today (polka-dotty) with matching undies!

i got a "$7 Special Holiday Deal!" manicure today and when she asked "what color you like?" i said "whatever, you pick" and she painted them a DAAAARK red called "Wicked." it looks kind of cool, but WOW i'm definitely a very, very pale white woman.

i'll take photos.

of the rollerskating.

and the nails.

not the bra.

i'm eating lean cuisine now. spaghetti carbonara. i'm wondering if it's real bacon in there. probably not.

now i have a craving for a reese's peanut butter cup.

tomorrow, my work includes making a personalized cheese board with a wood burning tool.... and they're paying me for that... sometimes i don't just don't get the entertainment industry.

my apartment's been on the market since labor day, and so far, i have had nearly 100 strangers come through to see it. no one, however, with an offer.

i have done absolutely no christmas shopping. the one gift that i *do* plan on every year is back-ordered and i don't know if it'll come in time to put it together.

i think i'm going to skip sending out christmas cards this year. bah humbug.

my husband is stalling the divorce and i'm not sure why. ironic, for a man who says he wants his 'freedom.' frustration. sadness.

i don't know any of the answers to the Jeopardy questions tonight.

i think i may get my hair cut and get bangs this time.

i worked out three times in the last four days, and feel really good about that.

i ate way too much macaroni and cheese last night. but i also had a lot of broccoli (organic), so that balances it all out.

that's my life.

05 December 2006

NYC Photo of the Day - Daycare

Waiting for mom to pick him up from day care:

03 December 2006

Craig's List social experiments...

At 2pm yesterday - it was a slow Saturday afternoon - I had an idea. At heart, I think I am a sociologist, because the culture of people and human behavior fascinates me. Faced with the prospect of soon having to start dating (and probably "internet dating" at that), I decided to run a little social experiment of my own. My plan: Put a posting up on Saturday afternoon for a dinner date on Craig's List's "personals" site, and see who responds. Here is my post... and please note that to protect the innocent, insulting, insane, and just plain idiotic, I've edited responders' names in the ensuing commentary:

Tall blond, looking for a Saturday evening dinner date - 33

Reply to: pers-(edited)@craigslist.org
Date: 2006-12-02, 1:57PM EST

Hello all... Who knows if this Craig's List thing actually works, but hey, life's an adventure, so I'm just going to take a leap and give it a shot. Me: Tall (5'11"), athletic blond-ish, intelligent, and a great conversationalist who happens to have left a long-term relationship a few months ago and has no plans for this evening in New York City.

What I'd like: It's a Saturday night, and things are sort of slow in my dating life. Lots of offers, but not a lot of interesting guys. So tonight, I'd love to have a nice dinner, a great chat, and some fabulous wine... just a relaxing, no pressure kind of situation.

You: Smart, tall, intelligent and can carry on a good conversation over a great meal and wine. Dessert is TBA... let's see what happens at dinner first. (Are you noticing that conversation skills are a key here?)

The usual CL disclaimers: D/D free, please send a picture, no spam.


That's the posting... simple, straight forward and fairly low key. I swear that when I wrote the "dessert TBA" thing, I wasn't thinking dirty... I honestly meant chocolate cake or something.

When I first thought up this little social experiment of mine, I thought it would be kind of fun - to write a blog about Craig's List and the weirdness of online dating. To be sure, I received plenty of strange and humorous responses, including "J" who wanted to make some cultural assumptions: "'cheers' means your British?" while "D" let me know exactly where his priorities were right off the bat: "I've got my Bruins on til 8 but after that I am free", and super-date "F" was "here to save the day :-))" complete with a double-chin smiley.

"L" apparently has a problem with backslashes: "M39 nyc here/ East Midtown Manhattan area 235lbs/ brown eyes/ dark hair/ 6'2''Marketing consultantI like to travel/ golf/ movies/ the beach/ romantic dinners/ good wine/ long candle lit baths/ kissing ........" and "R" apparently doesn't have much to say quite yet: "hi. I live on the ues..6 feet/185 finance, blah, blah, blah." Hm, wonder what part of the conversation requirement he didn't get...

"V"'s email (submitted sans photo) was short and to the point. I'll quote it in it's entirety here: "Find anyone?". But "Vinnie's" was the one that scared me the most: "www. freewebs.com/ woofwoofbone"... and no I didn't go there, and no, neither should you. Yet another, from "S": "oh, I'm sure we'll get to dessert! (*winky smile*)" (gack.)

"I" was brief and strangely insightful: "With your athletic background... ever dabble in martial arts! " Hm. Why yes! Why does he ask?

Others were confident, like "A", whose response email was titled "tall blond looking for me!". In the body of his email, he says: "I am replying to your post because it's simple and honest. And you have a warm, vibrant smile." Interesting how he values honesty, and so very nicely complements me on my smile. There could be potential here! Oh wait... In my original ad, I didn't post my photo.... So, how does he know what my smile looks like? Uh oh, I think I just busted a "cut and paste" responder! Another confident responder - "M" - apparently works for Nike and is a tad competitive: "Lets do it. I am taller then you probably in better shape too." Get the impression we'll end up arm-wrestling over who will be paying for dinner?

"D" was much more verbose, with no less than a 7-paragraph self description ending with a very clear list of what he requires when responding to him: "If I am indeedright, ONLY IF YOU ARESERIOUS ABOUT WHAT YOU ARELOOKING FOR, would I loveto know whatyou do fora living, what brought you tothe site, what doyou like doing for fun, what you arelooking for, what turns youon/off in a man etc." (to his credit, at least he gave me the option of picking whether or not he was "indeed right"... and - a side note - apparently has a problem with his keyboard space bar. I really wonder if any woman really does have any prepared notes on what turns them 'on/off in a man etc.' Quite interesting, however, was that earlier in the same long email, he explains his lack of required photo by stating that "i do not havemy picture handy sincethis was totally spontaneous (a nature of mypersonality)." Is it just me, or with all of his requirements for a response, it's clear that he doesn't want spontaneity from his date? Hmmm...)

Congratulations are due to "M" who was the first to respond. I posted at exactly 1:57pm, and his response rolled in at a time stamp of 1:58. So a special prize to you, "M" for being on the ball when it comes to trolling CL for new listings! By the time the clock hit 2:05pm, I'd received 15 emails.

Through the course of the afternoon and evening, I received two very strange offers to take me shopping:
"F": "Seeking a hot girl to take shoe shopping once a week. very submissive and love to be bossed around" (eww!)
"I": "A suite at the Mandarin Oriental or Hotel on Rivington (a getaway in the city). A facial and massage at the Ritz Carlton (Central Park of course).. Private tour of Bergdorf (Courtesy of Amex). Maybe some Shoes, Maybe a necklace, Maybe some La Perla, Maybe a dress..dinner at Daniel or Per-Se.. table at Tenjune (its all about being current) or Bungalow or Butter on Monday nights (I have trust me, but need someone lovely to do this with). (First off, what is it with men and shoes? Second, I think what I really want to respond to these two guys is 'They're called Professional Escorts... give 'em a call sometime'. )

I also got a fair number of photos... some very artistic, and some pretty straightforward. More than a few were close-up photos of men's genitalia... I'm not quite sure where that fits into my request for good conversation, though. (If anyone has any ideas on that, please enlighten me.) Other photos were just plain work-ID types, but some were quite creative. One was a photography buff who sent me a photo of his chin. Yep. Just his chin. For the record - "B" - you should shave before taking and distributing another photo of your chin to potential dates.

Believe it or not, the chin-shot wasn't the most baffling, though... The photos that really confused me were the ones that included the prospective dinner-date with his arms wrapped around another woman that was definitely NOT his mother. This happened twice, and in one photo, "C" very clearly had his hand on her tush. The accompanying note said "Here's a photo of me, and my friend." Hmm. Note to "C": When sending a photo to a prospective on-line candidate for a prospective off-line dinner date, it's best to at least edit out with Photoshop your former girlfriend... or at least edit out your hand on her arse.

I also received several photos of men scowling into the lens... Trust me, guys, you will fare better with a toothy, cheesy grin than an I'm-serious-handsome-and-mysterious photo that - in all honesty - makes you look more like a child molester than an appealing dinner date. Yes, I know we all ask for tall-dark-handsome-mysterious types, but what we really want is someone who isn't afraid to laugh a little.

A few responses, however, made me really worry about the "women" (I put that in quotes because like the lottery, you never know) that are posting on this site. And about here is where I started feeling a little guilty about my fun social experiment.... when I started getting warm and fuzzy, I'm-lonely-just-like-you responses like these:

"DL": "Hi. Hope you're having a nice day. I saw your posting on Craigslist. You sound like a nice and normal woman."
"TL": "Thanks for your honest post about where you are in life and what you hope to find."
"L": "Wow, you're a real person!"
"C": "I found your posting to be sincere and quite articulate. What a refreshing change!"
"J": "I may be a sucker for brains and a well-penned posting but I had to reply, and I guess I only get one shot at this so here goes."

These were just a few of what I dubbed the 'nice-guy' responders. Of course they all could be fakes, just hoping to figure out if I really am a "natural" blond, if you catch my drift. But the impression I got was that there are - simply - a lot of lonely people on this planet, and they're all just hoping to catch a break when it comes to companionship and intimacy. I feel a little bit unethical, posting a listing as simply a misleading social observation and experiment. My only consolation is that few people really expect to get responses from these kinds of postings... I think... I hope...

Nonetheless, to the authors of the thus far 79 email responses I've gotten to my posting: Thank you for participating in this study. You can get free orange juice and cookies on your way out the door.

01 December 2006

Best. Footwear. Ever.

Sock monkeys ROCK!!!!

Here are my most favorite things in the whole wide world... my brand new slippers:

I might just wear them rollerskating next week...