Monday, April 14, 2014

How to Become an Edith Wharton Heroine in One Easy Step

One of the great mysteries of life is how often we mistake being in love with something with being in love with the idea of something. This is an important distinction, and the day you realize this a great many confusions of life will no doubt be cleared up at once.  

I first realized this a few years ago. I thought I was in love with cozy British mysteries. I wasn't. I can't abide British mysteries. But I love the idea of them. I love the idea of being in love with the works of the great dames of mystery, and wanted to be in love with Lord Peter Wimsey. But I'm not, and probably shall never be at this rate. 

Although I love nothing more than the idea of being home on a foggy day with a stack of cozy British mysteries, faced with the prospect I soon throw away the book with disgust. I adore England, I adore cozy rooms on foggy days, but actually reading the dry back and forth dialogues between Hercule Poirot, Peter Wimsey, or any British detective with the person you think is a victim but turns out to be the murderer is something I simply can't get through. I begin to zone out and find myself thinking about windmills, coffee, the latest episode of a nameless television show, and anything, no matter how hard I try to metaphorically shut my eyes and think of England. 

There are so many lovely ideas in the world that it's easy to fall in love with them. You may be in love with the idea of being a doctor, but when you find yourself elbows deep inside someone's body you realize with a thud that this is the last place on earth you want to be, and besides, it smells awful. You may be in love with the idea of being in love with a person, but then realize that though being in love is great, this isn't love, and that you would be better off alone than with an indecisive fish who spends the wee small hours of the night writing bad lyric poetry and posting it on Facebook for all to laugh at. You could be in love with the idea of being an indie hipster, always on the cutting edge of the next big thing, discarding the last big thing before everyone else did, always setting trends. And maybe you are. 

But it is important to not fall so far in love with an idea that you can't wake up. A great many mistakes can happen. 

This is where the tragedy lies. One day you wake up, and you are a doctor, and you can't stop being a doctor because you have too many school loans to pay off. Or you wake up realizing you've made a muddle of your life and are doomed to be with the one person you would not want on that desert island with you, or have a million Facebook photos which will forever incriminate you as being the hipster girl so indie she gave up shampoo, well, at least you'll get a good story out of your life.  So perhaps all is not lost, for then you can be immortalized in a tragic novel like one of Edith Wharton's heroines. And deep down, isn't that what we all want most of all?

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Crown Jewels of Orangutan Patriarchy

It's currently the fashion to yammer about the patriarchy and how it's pulling us down. I'm sure it is pulling us down in countless ways, but I have other pressing things that are bothering me, and one of those subjects seems to be at the root of the patriatrarchal mindset that is opposing all progress whatsoever. That subject is that men simply don't know how to sit. 

As girls we are taught from an early age to sit demurely with our ankles crossed appropriately, taking up as little space possible. This is all fine and dandy for sitting in most public places where space is not a precious commodity. But on public transportation this is terrible information, because we have several generations of orangutanal males who want their seat and your seat, too. 

I've been observing this for several months, now, and am forced to conclude that they are taught this from a very young age. Somewhere in their infancy it seems an evil spirit whispers into their ears that if they ever allow their knees to touch, their precious crown jewels will wither and die, disintegrating into dust and dooming the human race forever. 

I'm here to tell you, men of the world, that that is not the case. Not only will your fertility still flourish, but you’ll also have a better chance of success should you find yourself confronted with a cute girl who just so happens to be sharing the bench with you. If you’re behaving like an orangutan, she probably won’t want to sit by you and instead find the least threatening older lady in the car to sit by. 

The only way to fight this abominable snowman like behavior is to take up as much seat as possible. Don't worry about the glares from other people as you persist in setting up your oversized bag as a fortifying wall against the looming girth of neanderthal men. Don't capitulate to the idea that girls must take up as little room as possible and pop buttons off your coat in your haste to flee from the offending largeness invading your space. Go forth, and conquer orangutans everywhere. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

What A Woman Wants

It is said that women are the more ruthless of the two sexes. It's true. We are ruthless. Despite our fascination with Disney princesses, we have more in common with the Disney villainesses. And just like Ursula, we want Prince Eric. Not because he’s interesting. If anything he’s probably one of the least exciting of all the Disney princes, and not completely on the ball, either. No one has time for a stupid man. But we do want princes. Or to be precise, we want their clothes. 

Expanding our wardrobes is the primary reason for finding a boyfriend. We want those oversized sweatshirts and t-shirts that we can throw on at a moment's notice to answer the door for the mailman delivering our latest order from Sephora. We want those oversized sweatshirts and t-shirts for pajamas, and loungewear. We want those oversized sweatshirts and t-shirts so we can wear them to forget. We want to forget that we have bodies so we can drink as much wine and eat as much chocolate as we please during times of great need, forgetting that calories exist because we are so shrouded in an oversized North Face (one that we would never buy for ourselves because we're too indie for brand names) that we forget we even have a size.

Now before you bring out your arguments about our modern age of feminism and independence to tell me that girls can just buy their own oversized apparel, let me just tell you, you're wrong. No girl in her right mind would ever buy clothes so much larger than her regular size. To do so would be to admit defeat, and would also be a waste of good money which could go to more fun investments such as pink lipstick or new high heels. It's much more economical to steal these necessities of a good life.  

So men, be on your guard. It's prime hunting season. Warm weather means sidewalk cafes, and sidewalk cafes are the best place for dates, because if your date proves to be boring there's plenty of people watching to be had to pass the time. If she is canny enough to suggest sitting outside, she's canny enough to want the shirt off your back. Be forewarned, and sally forth. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Casual Vacancies

My grandmother once referred to a boy at her church as husky. I didn't know that she meant he was fat. I immediately pictured a sinister person, taller than me, with a voice that hissed like a guttural snake yet who never spoke, instead just standing behind you breathing raspily in your ear. A husky person seemed sure to do something evil in the very near future. Then I met the kid at a church potluck and realized that at three times my size I could probably outrun him and that was the end of that.

Words paint pictures. But in today's world of multiple options, they often paint vacancies. I was at a party recently, and since Washington, D.C.'s idea of an ice breaker is "Where do you work?" instead of something that actually breaks the ice like "OMG your shoes are so cute!" it became quickly apparent that I was a lone reed amongst a sea of analysts.

Analysts. What does an analyst actually do? Do they sit behind desks in windowless rooms, regurgitating information that their senior analyst bosses feed them until their eyes are blank white ovals like in Little Orphan Annie? Do they dream of becoming senior analysts and feed the information to other people, or do they merely dream of electric sheep? What is above a senior analyst? Do you get to be an executive analyst? 

I'm sure no one knows, because analysts inhabit some other dimension where nothing really exists. They are vacant spaces of dead air, yet everyone wants to be able to call themselves an analyst because it sounds so foreboding people will never ask them what they do again.

Or maybe that's the point of it. Though it was meant to be an icebreaker and an innocent way of sizing up everyone else, as soon as someone says analyst it immediately kills all conversation. Words used to mean something. You could call your neighbor a dithering fool and you both immediately knew exactly where you stood with each other. It might not be the smartest thing to do, but you could do it. In that way, it was extremely helpful for clearing the air. We are a postmodern civilization, so we use words that don't really mean what we want them to mean. We speak in a language of facades in order to make everything sound better than what they are.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Of Witch Doctors, Water Bottles, and the New Bermuda Triangle

It always amazes me when people refuse to take advantage of technological advances like immunizations, online bill paying, and Twitter. Generally these people are few and far between, or remain confined to my facebook feed where I can unfollow at will. Until last week I (and probably you too) was blissfully ignorant that there were entire regions where people put their faith in mechanisms not backed up with technological data. Then we met Malaysia.

Malaysia is one of those countries you learn how to find on a map in 3rd grade and then promptly forget ever existed. It is not to be confused with Malta, the Maldives, or the Micronesian Islands, which sound extremely interesting but are down by Australia so I'll never find out due to my paralyzing fear of Australian lizards and insects. But now we know all sorts of things about Malaysia. 

We know that Malaysia has a thriving community of witch doctors, and that though Malaysia sounds reputable with companies called modern names like Malaysian Airlines, they still let the witch doctors dance about with melons and divining rods, performing their own special brand of voodoo magic to find a missing 777. 

We know that Malaysia doesn't like to believe companies as reputable as Rolls Royce and Boeing, both of which have been around far longer than Malaysia has been named Malaysia. Though both companies have reported that their data shows the missing plane flew around for a number of hours after Malaysia reports losing contact, Malaysia prefers the more obvious answer that the plane simply vanished. Though Malaysia may not have all the comforts of American living, they do evidently watch our television shows, and they may have taken Lost a little too literally. Planes do not simply disappear, and though an old professor of mine once said that there could be another dimension where socks vanish, it's highly doubtful that planes can slip into that dimension with as much ease. 

We know that Malaysia is a place where logic doesn't always exist, for their search efforts have even exasperated Chinese citizens who have loved ones on the missing plane. Though they have experience living under a governmental regime that doesn't like to give answers and cares little about the lives of human beings, they see Malaysia's problems. When people living in a communist country are protesting your government, you know there's a serious problem.

But hey. There's a place in this world for everyone, and everyone has a place. On the bright side, this shows us that Malaysia is a good place for those who wish to freely indulge their ignorance, ignoring what science has proven, and the relatively low-risk comfort of technology. If you're the type of person who believes that the increase in polio is entirely a fluke, perhaps you would enjoy Malaysia. It's a place of magical happenings, where logic doesn't always exist. And for those who are missing loved ones, please know our thoughts are with you.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Dante's Seven Circles of iCloud

Everyone says social mobility is a thing of the past. Perhaps it is. But we have a better way to procure a happily ever afterlife for ourselves, now, and that is through our superior technological choices.

It's no secret that I love Apple Computers. They really are the greatest. This was drummed into my head at an early age, for Steve Jobs was next to God in our household. Never mind what people say about him being a jerk. We all have our faults, and that was his, and I can overlook it because he put the music into my phone in one gorgeous interface that works practically perfectly in every way. He enabled me to block out all the most annoying people in the world with one invention, and for that I shall always be grateful. 

Yes, Apple makes objets d'art. Why would I want to waste my money on something that is merely functional and has all the beauty of a two bit whore in the early hours of a Sunday morning? I don't. There's nothing quite like the feeling of opening an Apple product for the first time. I can only describe it as akin to the feeling a guy must get when he sees his significant other in lingerie. It's magical, with a hint of what is to come and the heights of happiness that you will attain. Opening up the box to see your new MacBook Air nestled in its packaging, with all its accoutrements in a beautiful rectangular box hovering just above your new laptop is the kind of feeling you treasure until you buy your next Apple product. 

And here you scoff. You sit there, reading this, on your Lenovo, your Toshiba, and your hideous Dell. But just remember the feeling you got when you powered up your iPhone with its newly installed iOS 7 and the smugness you felt as you looked askance at the man beside you on metro, still laboriously using a stylus somehow he forgot to lose on his archaic Blackberry. That's the feeling I get when I get a new Apple product. It's a hint of things to come, for Dante would no doubt agree that there's a special circle of Heaven for those who appreciate great art which also functions better than your PC ever dreamt of. I shall be there, enjoying all the benefits of the great iCloud in the sky, while you curse every antivirus program you ever downloaded. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


Just as George Orwell predicted, we live in a modern era, and we live in an age of fear. Just as George Orwell did not predict, we adore Big Brother. We've recovered from the initial shock of personalized ads which pop up on every new website we visit, and have fallen in love with the convenience of cloud technology.

We have adapted. To Edward Snowden's chagrin, we don't care half as much about government eyes viewing our poor life decisions acted out on Skype, as we care about our teenage music purchases, which will continue to haunt us to the nursing home and beyond. We are terrified of every new change Facebook introduces. We worry about hackers taking over our Twitter accounts. And most of all, we are horrified by the daily challenges of attempting to avoid any and all spoilers. 

Spoilers is a word which used to mean what happened on last night's episode of Lost. But we are Americans, so we define things expansively and allow room for people of all definitions. Spoilers now mean pretty much whatever that has not been recorded in history books. So yes, you should know the ending of the movie of Argo, but for the love of all that is holy do not ruin the ending of 24. The insanity became clear as the 2014 Sochi Olympics began, and my newsfeed was taken over by crazed individuals threatening to defriend anyone who, carelessly or otherwise, spoiled the Olympics for them. 

How do you spoil the Olympics? It's a sporting event, which means the scores will be reported as they happen. Unlike live tweeting a television show, which is annoying for anyone who doesn't care about the show or wants to watch it later at their convenience, sports scores fall under the label of news. While the nitty gritty of what happened in last night's episode of the Walking Dead will not be reported on the front page of the New York Times, the results of the hockey game will. 

Scores are meant to be shared instantly, because they are considered to be news items. So demanding that the Olympics not be spoiled because Russia has the gall to ignore American time zones and the supremacy of the East Coast who is used to watching everything at their convenience is, quite simply, a first world problem. Does this mean we should all refrain from commenting on the next election's results so everyone can tune in to their television to watch the thrilling news commentary as the polling places begin to report? 

The internet is great, but it's turned into this hyper sensitive place where we all have to consider every tweet. Interestingly enough, these same people who demand to live in spoiler free zones spoiled the Olympics for me, since I watch them on demand the next day so I don't have to suffer through multiple commercials for McDonalds. People who demanded no spoilers for Sherlock spoiled it as soon as it aired, little caring that I couldn't watch it until at least the next day since I am part of the smart TV revolution which will eventually take over the world when one day everyone sees the error of their ways in conforming to the demands of weekly television schedules.

How to rectify this gaping hole in logic? Stop caring so much. Is knowing who will win the figure skating competition really going to destroy all enjoyment of the spins and jumps? Can you really expect people to not spoil the ending of Alias when the finale aired almost ten years ago? No, you can't. So calm down.