The Nondating Life

Monday, August 22, 2005

Public Display of ...

Stay with me for a moment. I’d just like to say something.

I know I’m beautiful. Some mornings, I get tired of looking at myself in the mirror, but I know I’m fine. I like my ass. I like my eyes. I like the shape and heft of my cock. I think my pecs are smoking hot, and if some stupid bitch doesn’t like me because my back’s a little hair or I’m vertically challenged, well, she can just bite me. Who the hell does she think she is, anyway. Sure, some might see her as funny and charming, but I’ve seen through all that. I see her for the fat cow she is. And her over-used vagina stinks, too. I’ve always promised not to burn any bridges, to take the high road, but some people don’t deserve it. And I don’t deserve to feel this way.

Now, how did that strike you? Childish? Hateful? Totally self-absorbed? Dare I say it? Misogynistic?

But the truth is, I would never write such a thing for public consumption. It’s personal in a non-entertaining way. It’s vengeful. It’s mean. It’s immature. And the only insight it offers is that the writer is pathetic. The person who writes such a thing has been wounded and is lashing out.

And, ultimately, it’s just un-fucking-manly.

Which is why I think such a post it’s a rarer thing on men’s blogs. Do men do it? I’m sure there are some who do the vindictive sort of post. And I’d classify most of those as frat-boy types, perhaps chronologically in their mid- to late-twenties, but mentally still 15 (yes, ladies, we ARE slow). And we all know of the boys who do the vindictive “emailing or posting of the web-cam sex.”

But I think even they will resist the urge to have a love fest about their own body.

Yet, how often have I surfed around the Web and discovered grown women—women into their thirties and beyond, women who otherwise seem smart, charming and sassy—spouting off such things? I’m not going to go digging for links right now because, quite honestly, I don’t want to embarrass anyone. But I do have a suggestion. Keep it off the blogs.

Sure, we can argue about what’s appropriate material for blogging. Sure, it can be argued that everything is appropriate for blogging. I’d argue that this sort of thing belongs in a journal, not on the web. I’m from the school of thought that if it’s going to be posted on the web, it has to be entertaining. If you’re feeling like shit, feeling sorry for yourself, feel free to write a post about it, but make it entertaining, make it something more, make it funny.

And some people would counter that a service is being rendered by opening up every single facet of their lives to the blogging community, that that’s the entire point of his or her particular blog. “I want to give unfiltered reality. That’s what I’m all about. I’m keeping it real. I’m simply offering a glimpse into my journal,” a person might say. And I can almost buy that argument.

If it weren’t for the comment section.

Think about this for a bit. Imagine if a straight man in his thirties or beyond spent a post blathering on in self-affirmation about his muscles and his ass. If a man started denigrating the woman who’d just dumped him as a skank, a slut, a stupid bitch who didn’t appreciate him, and deserved from here on out the sort of man who would beat her. What would happen in the comment section?

He’d be torn to pieces.

But what happens when women do this? They get accolades. From their friends, from the people who want to be their friends and from the blog-stalking sensitive guys who really, really could make you happy, baby, if you’d just give them a shot. It’s a “You go girl” moment. It’s grrrrlll power. It’s loving yourself while fighting off the shackles of gender oppression. It’s sassy!

When what it really is is a wounded person a) fishing for compliments and b) dissing the person who hurt her. Personally, the only comment I’ve ever wanted to leave on one of these “I am a beautiful, wronged woman, hear me roar posts” is “I am embarrassed for both of us, you for having posted this in public, me for having read it.” It ain’t sassy, honey. It’s just sad.

And it IS sad. It’s a sad moment. But as stated before, unless you’re making it funny or offering insight, keep it to yourself, keep it off the web. I just feel used when I come across a blog and the post turns out to be someone fishing for an ego-boost (Wait, let me save you the trouble:
Hypocrisy!). We all have our moments when we feel fat, short, ugly, lonely and need to be cheered up. But that’s what friends are for, not a general reading audience, which is what you’re dealing with unless you have an invite-only blog. The writer should entertain the reader, not the other way around.

Let me be clear: This is a writing/blogging argument only. I’m sure if I really tried, if I did real research, I could find a large number of men having their own bitter snit-fits in public, trashing women who broke up with them (perhaps even linking to them), while fishing for compliments from their own little fan club. But as I’ve said before, if you want real research rather than random observations, you’re in the wrong place (PEARATTY!!!). Besides, I’ve got a name for guys who write stuff like that in public (some of you may want to cover your eyes): pussies. Oh, I’ve got another name for them: livejournal users. (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.)

And I’d have the same advice for guys who contemplate writing such a post. Keep it off your blogs. No one really wants to read it.

But a close reader of this post, a Clintonian parser, will notice that I’ve been saying “in public” quite a bit. Men, after all, engage in this sort of shameless, wounded, unmanly behavior in the offline world.

Just like women, we have our weak moments, especially after being dumped. And we handle it the same way women do. Sort of.

A woman is dumped by a guy, she rings up her friends for mourning or male bashing. Her friends buck her up. A guy gets dumped, he rings up his friends, says “Let’s go get drunk” and they buck him up (unless he’s the loner sort who finds comfort in a bottle of Jack Daniels and a round or two of punching wall until his knuckles bleed).

The difference, in this real world instance, is in the buck-up conversation. The ladies will sit around and pick over the relationship, examine the cons (maybe even the pros), beat up on the offending ex, and, just as important, perhaps more important, affirm their friend. They tell her she’s pretty and smart and funny, etc., etc. In other words, they talk, have a real conversation.

Guys? Well, it’s the same thing, but sort of in a different language. They sit around a pitcher of beer or a round of whiskeys (or, let’s face it, both) and it goes like this.

Wounded man: “Dude, I can’t believe she did me like that.”
Dude 1: “Dude, that’s fucked up.”
Dude 2: “Yeah, dude, that’s harsh.”
Wounded man: “Fuck me, dudes. I. I don’t know. Just. Fuck.”
Pause for thinking.
Dude 1: “No, you know what, dude? Fuck HER.”
Dude 2: “Yeah, dude, fuck her.”
Wounded man: “Yeah? Really?”
Dude 1: “Yeah, fuck her, dude.”
Dude 2: “Yeah, you know what you need to do, go out and get laid. Take your mind off.”
Dude 1: “Totally. Oh, hey, we need another pitcher.”

And that’s about the extent of it. Then they get drunk and start talking about high school or college (“Dude, remember that time? Remember?” “Shyeah, that was awesome.”)

There are many, many layers to that seemingly simple conversation, but that’s about all there is to it. The guys, in not so many words, have told their friend that his ex is stupid and all wrong for him, and that he is, indeed, quite the handsome man that any woman would be lucky to nab. Notice, though, the guys don’t go into that much ex-bashing, definitely not of the physical sort. Partly, it’s because they realize that by tomorrow morning their friend may be back together with the ex and he’ll remember if the other two dudes called her fat and hairy. But partly, too, the other two dudes may think the ex is hot and they’re calculating how long before they can make a move.

I guess in those two approaches, you can see the differences that crop up on blogs. The guys talk about it in what boils down to a series of grunts. Chimp language, almost. Women, on the other hand, talk. Like scientists, they try to get down to the bottom of the thing, try to actually help their friend. And affirmation is a large part of that. Is either approach better? Well, the woman’s way of doing it certainly seems more compassionate. But in the end, though, both man and woman wake up the next day hungover and still broken-hearted.

Which is the way life is. Which is the way it always will be. Which is the way it should be.

But the rest of us sure as hell don’t want to read about it. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yell at me. Tell me that each person’s blog is his or her own. Tell me that’s one of the great things about blogging. Tell me that if I don’t like that sort of thing, that no one’s forcing me to read, no one’s making me, right, so quit reading those blogs, already.

Guess what. I will.

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Friday, August 19, 2005

Vote, monkeys! Vote.

Yes, it's still going on. Vote until you get carpal tunnel.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Nude Law

No doubt you've all seen the nude photo of Jude Law making the rounds today. No? You haven't. Well, here you go ladies. At any rate, I find it interesting that everyone's passing this around and some people are even analyzing his naughty bits ... outside, naked, no shrinkage (yeah, I mean you, Robb)... and no one seems to feel much like they're doing anything wrong (and believe me, i did my fair share of forwarding). Thing is, I'd never think of doing that with a nude photo of a woman, not because I wouldn't want to type out something like "How deep do you think that thing is?", but rather because if I got busted doing that, I'd probably lose my job.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Process this

I'm sitting in a Starbucks on Sunday morning, eating marble cake, drinking coffee--not something I do often, mind you, but someone gave me a $15 Starbucks Card and it wasn't going to use itself. My only regret is that Starbucks doesn't serve fried chicken.

To my right, on the couch in the window, sits a woman, tarted up in a nice sun-dress and strappy heels. The dress has a support system that makes her boobs look like two cantaloupes about to roll out of a fruit basket. An ivy vine tattoo climbs up her left arm. She's waiting for her boyfriend or fiance or husband or what not. I know this because another woman asked if the seat next to her was taken, and she replies in a chirpy little voice, "Yes, I'm sorry, it is."

The boyfriend comes in. He's going through the ugliest stage of baldness: he's got that sad little island left up front and only wisps of hair, originating above the ears, reaching up and covering the middle section. For everyone's sake, he should grab the razor, but I imagine he hasn't quite reached the acceptance stage, is still hoping that one morning he'll wake up and his hair will be back. He's wearing shorts, sneakers, an old t-shirt--what normal people wear when they're just going to sit in Starbucks and read the paper on a Sunday morning.

They exchange a "Hi, baby" and he gives the table in front of her a short glance, noticing that she's been in here ten minutes, is sitting comfortably in the air conditioning, lounging almost--and hasn't ordered anything. He's sweating. Outside, the air is like a dirty, moist dish cloth--already close to 90 degrees. He's annoyed. Whatever it is, I can see in his shoulders that he's a little ticked off that she hasn't ordered. But a quick look around tells him that the place is packed and she was wise to grab a seat.

"What will you have?" he asks.

Then it happens.

I've often said that I don't think there are that many differences between men and women. Most of the problems faced in the dating world, most of the neuroses, are shared equally by both. But there is one major difference. Women, all of them, are under the mistaken impression that the world cares what they think.

Now before you all rush over to email or your local NOW representative (because you know how you people rush to judgment), let me clarify. This isn't about politics or philosophy or deep thoughts of any sort. I'm all for an equal exchange of ideas. And I think women are just as good at men in the heavy thinking categories and more men would do well to listen to women.

What I'm talking about is this uncontrollable and unnecessary urge women have to vocalize. Everything.

And this Starbucks episode is a perfect example. When the man asked, "What will you have?" what should have happened is this: The woman falls silent for a second or two, maybe even an entire minute--perhaps she strokes her chin--then she looks up, opens her mouth and the says, "I'll have a Venit decaf supercalifragilistic chai mocha whozihwhatzit."

But does that happen? Of course not.

Like some malfunctioning robot that starts vocalizing its programming subroutines, she starts babbling. "Well, let's see, what do I want?" (Hey, lady. He doesn't know. That's why he asked you.) "I guess I could get a blahblahblahblah. Or a hibbitygiggityhoohoohoo. Do I want that? Hmmmm. I don't know. I think I might want something hot. Or cold."

Meanwhile, the guy's standing there, his shoulderd climbing up to his ears as he gets closer and closer to the snapping point. I conclude that they live together a few blocks away. She decided she wanted to go to Starbucks and he thought it would be a good idea. But then she takes an hour getting dolled up... TO GO TO STARBUCKS. Then, halfway there in the soupy weather, she remembers she forgot something, can he go back and get it. So now he's standing there, the sheen of sweat on his body cooling, getting sticky, in the air-conditioned room.

And just when he thinks it can't get any worse, she says, "You know what, I could have something sort of sweet, but not to sweet. So if they have that. Yeah. Sure."

That's it. That's her order. He's trapped. Because if he snaps at her for this stupidity, he'll suddenly be the unreasonable one. I can only see the back of his head, but I can tell he gives her one of those looks, before turning around. It probably takes every ounce of will in him not to stomp to the counter like a three-year old sent to his room.

"What!?!" she says as he sulks away. "What!?!" as if she has no idea. And the thing is, she probably doesn't.

Then she gets up from the couch and follows him and my first thought is "Holy shit, not only has she pissed him off, she's going to lose their seat in a futile attempt to make everything better." Luckily, she doesn't lose the seat and he doesn't have to kill her (and everyone else in the building).

She returns to the couch. He comes back five minutes later with what I swear looks like a cheese plate. She smiles and starts eating and he just sits there staring at the paper. I can tell he's not reading. He's just trying to reset, trying to forget what a pain in the ass she can be. "Hey, she's a good looking girl," he's telling himself. "She's nice, treats me well, doesn't seem to care that my scalp looks like the hide of a mangy dog. And she has nice tits. ... But god DAMN, why does she have to do this?"

Sorry, guy. It's in her nature. Women like to externalize their thought patterns. Annoying? Yes. Stupid? Sure. Ever going to stop? Not a chance.

I lectured a girl friend of mine a few weeks ago about pestering her boyfriend after he'd had a bad day.

"But all I wanted to do was ask him about it, show some support," she said.

"Yeah," I replied, "you were pestering him." Also, she was partially lying. She didn't necessarily want to support him. She wanted to see what was going on in that head of his. She wanted HIM to talk.

Women have a bad day and they want to talk about it. And by talk, they mean they vent, you listen, then you talk back, then she says something, then you say something. This, of course, is the height of silliness. If a man has a bad day, he just wants it to go away. If he DOES want to talk about it, what he means is he wants to let forth a stream of "That cocksucking piece of shit down at the office is gonna get a three-ring binder shoved up his ass and then I'm gonna rip off his secretary's head and go bowling with it, the sonsabitches. All of 'em" and so forth, and so on until the steam blows off and the day goes away and he goes in the next day. The last thing he wants to hear is, "Well, what happened?" or "Well, maybe the other person..." or "Do you wanna talk about it?" Hell, he usually doesn't even want you hanging all over him. He wants to be left alone until he resets and the unhappy thoughts subside--as he knows they will. If you want to give him a massage or oral pleasure, fine, but don't expect any reciprocation. It's best just to leave him alone.

Why? Because men know that talking about something that's happened already doesn't actually solve anything. If you've had a bad day--and we're talking run-of-the-mill bad day, not "I got caught boning the cleaning lady and I lost my job and we won't be able to pay rent"--it will go away of its own accord. If the human mind is capable of erasing child abuse and alien anal probes, surely it can easily deal with the fact that your boss, like, a total douchebag yesterday. Talking about it accomplishes nothing except maybe reliving the misery, dragging it out. And unless he's a 19-year-old English or Philosophy major (or a 30-year-old musician), a man just isn't interested in wallowing in his misery.

And having a conversation about it? Forget it. We know damn well that having a two-way conversation is more likely than not just to bring up some other issue that will piss us off even more.

Men, after all, are about results. Sure, women are interested in results, but they're equally interested in "the process." This sort of thing is reminiscent of all the pedagogy bullshit that I ran across when teaching writing. It's infecting school systems and I think it's one reason that people can't write any more. "Writing is a process. It shouldn't just be about the results." Yeah? Well, why don't you take your "process" and go try to publish it in something other than an academic journal, toots.

This happens at work as well, when the back-and-forth emails start up between (mostly women) reporters and they decide to include editors in the "discussion." (Men have started doing this, too, but I think that's more of a "Hey, look at me. These emails prove that I'm working and definitely not searching for nude photos of Jessica Alba online.") It's the good ol' let's include EVERYONE. It's a PROCESS!!! It'll be fun! No. It won't. I'm not interested in your process. I want you all to shut up, leave me alone and let me know when you have something I can actually work with. (In the mean time, I'll be googling Jessica Alba)

You think I'm making this all up? Next time you're out with a group of people at a restaurant, watch what happens. Guys look at the menu. Women look at the menu. And perhaps the exact same thoughts are going through their heads. "Man, I don't know what I'm in the mood for. I think I want a steak, but I can smell the fish and it smells good. Then again, I haven't been eating any vegetables lately, maybe I should get a salad. But what if everyone laughs at me? Oooh, that roast pork looks good, too. Damn."

But guess who's going to be saying all of this out loud--which only makes it harder for the rest of us to make our own damn decisions.

And guess who's usually the first person to say, "What are you having?!?" (Oddly enough, my first impulse when faced with this question is, "A big plate of none of your goddamn business, that's what I'm having.")

Guys, for many reasons, like to decide, then open their mouths and speak. We'll struggle with our inner menu demons and make a decison. Perhaps we'll make two and then, when faced with the pressure of the waiter, open our mouths and let the subconscious decide.

Women? Well, they'll include the whole damn restaurant in the decision. Yes. Sometimes, if you're with a large group of people at a new place, the woman's approach just might be better... after an initial round of debating, you can all order different dishes and then share. And everyone's moderately happy.

But you know what, ladies? Sometimes, we just want a damn steak. We don't want to talk about it, not with you and not with your friends and definitely not with your friends' boyfriends. This is my steak, goddamnit, and I'm not sharing. You want me to talk AND give up territory? As if. I looked at the menu, I made up my mind, I will share this information with the wait staff. If you want to order chicken, fine, go ahead, but you reach your fork over toward my piece of cow, you're gonna lose a damn finger.

Sorry, I got kind of side-tracked there (and my lady friends who dine with me know that I'll always share).

But, yes, there is a difference between men and women here. Women like to externalize their thought processes. Men don't. For two reasons: 1) Men focus on results and want to seem sure before they open their mouths and 2) Quite often, we don't even HAVE a thought process going on. It's just a whole lot of white noise up in there. Hence the oft-asked question, "Honey, what are you thinking?" And the familiar response, "Huh?"

And this time around, I'm going to side with the men. Men, keep being stubbornly silent. After all, any woman will admit that one of the things she likes about a man is that appearance of strength through silence, an economy of words and the ability to make a decision. Yes, even if it is a moronic decision--how do you think all those meathead guidos get hot chicks? Because they're discussing their innermost feelings or because they ACT like a man, despite obviously bad decisions involving hair product and gold jewelry. Sure, women might whine about you being uncommunicative, but just as they don't really want to see a grown-man cry, they don't really want you to turn into a Chatty Cathy and start talking all the time about your emotions (besides, if you start talking about yours, she won't be able to bore you with hers).

And, ladies? Really, sometimes you just need to put a damn lid on it. Think. Then speak. Get your shit together, then open the mouth. After all, the world's noisy enough as it is.

(Previous post)

Friday, August 05, 2005

Some Practical Advice...

Hola Amigos. It's been awhile since I rapped at ya. Been busy with this and that and whatnot. So I thought I'd share an email exchange from earlier this week in which I offered up some practical dating advice (I mean apart from the "Don't Date" kind of advice). Email has been slightly edited to protect the innocent.

Dear Ken,
So I met this girl last week in a bar. Really, I had no major interest in her, but I did think she was attractive and think I enjoyed talking to her.

Anyway, her friend gots my friend's card at the end of the night and later e-mails him saying "if STRIKING YOUNG LAD hasn't got a girlfriend can you give him PLEASANT YOUNG WOMAN's e-mail?"

So, obviously, it seems it's an option, and it doesn't seem to me it'd hurt to go have a drink with a lass on one of my free evenings. But here's the question... is it bad form to e-mail someone about having a drink when I can barely remember what she looked like? And, if I do so, could I be honest about how little I can remember of the night? (The latter would be especially relevant if we met again, as i'd have to recognize her in a bar.)

Bad form? HA! No way. Here was my response.

Hell yeah to the drink.
A guarded yes to admitting you were plastered: If she says, "Oh, don't worry, I was too," she digs you. If she says, "Oh, you didn't seem that drunk" she digs you a lot.
And it goes without saying that it would be a bad idea to tell her you don't remember what she looks like. For some reason, women get extremely sensitive about that sort of thing.
As far as recognizing her in a bar, two options,
1. Pick a place that won't be crowded at all, bring a book and get their early. Call her from the bar, tell her where you're sitting and never look up from the book. She'll find you. Bbonus points for a) reading and being smart and b) seeming so confident in yourself that you didn't have to look up every five seconds to see if she'd actually show up
2. Pick a place that will be so crowded that you two won't have a choice but to call one another when you arrive at the bar. Again, get to the bar first.

It also goes without saying that I'm not to be held responsible for anything that goes wrong if you're foolish enough to take my advice.

I thought about gussying this up and writing an extended entry, but I figured I'd let the stark simplicity of real email speak for itself. I'll follow up in the next few weeks to see how it went. And if you have your own problems are questions, feel free to ask.