Thursday, November 26, 2015

My Gratitude Top Ten, by En.

You know when someone suggests something, and then it repeats and repeats, like the Universe is trying to send you Facebook ‘pokes’ or nudges or whatever?  I had a week like that.  About five different people, not in the same conversation, mentioned my blog/my recent article in Clever Girl Mag/journaling.  Each reference was thumb flick over a lighter flint, not catching, not catching, not… there’s a spark, a flicker, oh boy, a flame.
I can't blog again... can I?  Must resist...but why?

The truth is, my writing fire dwindled this year.  The hopeful little flame was extinguished, blown out by the Publishing winds that seem to blow smoke, not fuel the fire.  (Have we had enough of this analogy yet?)   I was disappointed by some of the interesting decisions from publishers and the blog become more of a chore that weighed heavily upon me, than something fun and frivolous. 

But today, *drum roll* my brain ignited!  And my fingers are twitchy for something more than my Christmas Card list and deleting the unbelievable barrage of Black Friday emails from chain stores who seem to offer another confusing sale every single day.  So… why not? 

I don’t have such illusions of grandeur that I think you actually want to know my Thanksgiving Day thoughts, but fuck it, I want to write them for me, because--bloody hell!!! I actually have TIME today, because words, ideas, patterns and thoughts make me happy.  Of course, I hope you know that I am grateful EVERYDAY, but as a more recent Pilgrim, who won’t be eating turkey, I thought I would share what this Brit on the Ridge is grateful for.  En's Top Ten!  So here goes:  In no particular order...

1)      I am alive.  The alternative is not appealing.  God, there seems to have been so much tragedy this year; people who I know, and know of, who will be sorely missed around the table today.  Every day we have a chance to make a difference; I am jolly grateful for that.

1b)   I am alive AND healthy.  I don’t often spend time thinking about the fact that I can breathe, walk, talk, think (sometimes), see, smell, hear, taste, speak, dance, flow through my yoga practice and feel my heart beating against my mat.  The human body is so, utterly amazing!  We are a mass of cells!  A body of blood, water, plasma, fibers, bone and cartilage, intricately evolved to function!!!  Our bodies are our own personal ecosystem hard at work.  Bloody brilliant really.

I visited my friend in hospital today, and yesterday.  Being ill is, of course, never fun, but there is that added sorrow about it, to be there on a holiday, without companionship or food.   

2)      Words.  Words are rather like precious jewels to me.  When I hear a new sparkly word it makes my brain buzz.  I’m listening to Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, and to hear the British lexicon, especially the swear words, oh my God!  It is heaven!  (I highly recommend this book by the way.  And the Audible version is entertaining me no end.)

3)      Food.  Today, I get to prepare whatever I please!  So I’m taking time to bake eggplant lasagna.  It’s quite the ritual and something I never usually give myself time for, so I will enjoy the process and having saved Self the headache of trying to time the turkey, veggies, fixings and gravy all at the same time.  Cold lumpy gravy fills me with dread.

4)      My Mum and Dad.  It still rather amazes me that they are here in NEPA.  From 3,000 miles away they moved to Scranton.  We have many moments of raised tempers, furrowed brows, misunderstandings, but they are two people who consistently go above and beyond to help me.  And it totally tickles me that Mum, who went shopping yesterday so I could bake Self lasagna today, tries soooo hard and is so rigidly British!!!  She returned with the list with a few surprise items.  I had asked for a pack of ‘Sweet Italian sausage meat.’  I stipulated where she would find it and that is wouldn’t be in casing, but it would look like ‘mince’—which is what we call ground meat.  Sweet.  Italian.  Sausage meat.  She returned with this.  It looks like some ghastly Jimmy Dean pre-packed thing.  Horrors.  And yet, it was so endearing, because she wrote me a note that she asked the man at Wegmans and this was all he could find?  Was he twelve?  I mean EVERYONE else in NEPA knows what I mean by sweet Italian Sausage meat, right?  But I am grateful and I chuckle.

5)      Beanie.  She ran away again this morning—ah! The joys of squirrel chasing!—and as I gathered her to me, panting in my robe, in public, with bare feet that had carried scissoring legs over the slightly frosted grass tips and hot-footed over the gravel, I couldn’t help but let my frustration melt and just love her.  She lashed my cheek with quick flicks from her velvet tongue and fixed me with longing looks from those dark cherried eyes.  My little girl.

6)      Joy.  Those little moments that make one smile and feel like a teenager: like an unexpected song that comes on as one chops the onion and, without pause, recall and sing all the words, jump up, Beanie kangarooing at one’s feet, a 8 inch steel knife my new microphone.  (I didn’t say it was safe, I said it was joyous.)

7)      My job.  I love what I do.  I love helping people feel good about themselves, mentoring my consultants, cultivating a network of positivity, heart, hope and kindness.  I love the possibilities, the challenges, overcoming the challenges, the rewards, the advancement and having the freedom and choices to work when I want, with whom I want, wherever I want.  I am soooo  grateful I am not confined or limited to a grey job I hate, but every day I get to choose.  I have the potential of making a difference in someone else’s life.  That’s pretty awesome.

8)      My tribe.  Wow do I have some empowered, empowering friends.  Lionhearts, Yogis, Director-friends, Customer-friends, Greenridgers, Reader-Friends, Supportive Community Peeps who do good things.  It’s the people who make a place.  Thanks for making this my home.
9)    Coupling.  It gives me no small amount of delight to see my friends finding their people.  Whether they have traveled from PA to the west coast and found their new bearded beau, or upped sticks to St. Augustine, or found someone in PA right under their nose, it's a joy to see the ridiculous smiles on their beautiful faces.  I'm grateful that they are happy.

10)   Love.  Because it’s a pretty wondrous thing when at last you realize you can give someone your whole heart and expect nothing in return.  And it’s okay. 

Have a joyful, grateful, loving, meaningful, silly, music-filled, word-stuffed, food feast today.  Hug your people hard and avoid lumpy gravy.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Fuckery and Food Truckery!

Confession: I love a bit of food porn.  Truly.  No, I'm not talking 57 Shades of Heinz bedroom games, but rather food can be really sexy.

There's ritual in the preparation, (the foreplay) and the consumption (consummation).  It's just so god damn sensual!  The hunger: the thought of it, the sight, the smell, the taste, the feel of it on the tongue, the roll around the mouth, the... mastication.  (Yes, that's a word.)  And I love a good book that involves, nay celebrates the love of food: from Lily Prior's La Cucina and her romps with Ragu; Adriana Trigiani's Big Stone Gap Series, in which I learned a sandwich could be so much more; Joanne Harris's Chocolat, I will forever suck and savour my quality truffles, because shit, a lot of work goes into those things; Promises to Keep, by Jane Green--it even has recipes, and they are good (!) and anything by Jennifer Weiner, because her heroines hunger for something more in life.  Amen and pass the salt!
Gem.  She's lovely and hi-LA-rious!

So, when I learned my friend and fabulous Britty in the Big City, Gemma Burgess, had tippy-tappy typed a new adult novel, about a headstrong twenty-something living in my old hood, fucking and food trucking, I knew I HAD to read it!

Now, now, Boys!   When I say 'fucking' don't get the wrong idea, this is not some erotic blow-by-blow (pardon), but it's... real.  The gaggle of Brooklyn Girls living in a house on Union St are living life and making mistakes, a lot of mistakes.  This punchy opener sets the tone beautifully:
"Never screw your roommate's brother.  A simple rule, but a good one.  And I broke it last night.  Twice.  Oopsh."

Ta dah!  And the heroine, Pia, and I bonded immediately!  (Not that I have ever done that, Mum.  Dad.  But simply, I love a good, ol' flawed heroine with a lust for life.)  Pia can party her socks off!  Well, her bra off anyway, and that's unfortunately the photo that ends up on Facebook and gets her fired from her PR job.  "Oopsh!" indeed.  Pia is cut-off by her parents and forced to survive (pay rent and afford tequila) on her wits and ingenuity!  She buys a food truck using--perhaps not the best choice--ten grand from a loan shark.  Thus her food truck business, Skinny Wheels, and financial debt, begins!

The whole, "getting cut of from her parents" thing you might find reminiscent of Lena Dunham's Girls.  Funnily enough, Gemma Burgess had written this first novel of the series before the award-winning HBO show aired.  I hope this novel is as successful for Burgess as the show is for Dunham, because it has all the ingredients to be so.

So let's cut to the meat and potatoes, shall we?  Why did I enjoy this book?  Pia Keller is a truly likable protagonist with a Masters in Self Destruction: she is clearly an Arseaholic (addicted to Arseholes); and, she suffers from anxiety and rage.  (This is not familiar at all.  No Siree!  Not me!)  Pia is riddled with flaws, but is so likable.  She'd do anything, ANYTHING, to help her girlfriends; she is passionate about bringing the public fresh, organic food; she drives a pink truck; she's often treated as an alien due to her Swiss/Indian parentage; oh, and she is pretty and fashionable.  I like her!

Pia is a bona fide foodie!  I'm going to put this out there: a girl's gotta eat!  Writers who don't let their characters eat are, quite frankly, cruel.  Is your character an anorexic?  A  camel?  EnduroMan?  Jesus in the desert?  No?  Then fucking feed her/him!  Pia et les femmes eat.  They eat a lot, and in Brooklyn, they are certainly in a good neighbourhood for that.  Whether drunken feasting on eggplant rollatini, baked ziti, and spinach and ricotta pizza at Bartolo's; or simply scarfing down Coco's homemade cookies; or creating the nutritious and delicious salads of Skinny Wheels; food is the uniting factor that brings these girls together, that comforts, that sobers, that gives Pia a place to help others.  

120 miles north of New York City, my now home town of Scranton is ga-ga-hoopla-Kelly-and-not-Regis-mental about food truckery!  It's fresh, it's new, it's mobile!  What the Fork is there not to like?  I've been reading the ravings about the grain-fed beef sliders with bacon jam, the pork tacos with sriracha slaw, the amazing fries.  I've gorged on their left-field breakfast items: the sweet corn waffles with sauteed banana and blueberries and chili maple syrup--wackadoodle, but unbelievably tasty.  It's innovative.  I cannot wait to see our local What The Fork Truck on Kelly and Michael on Thursday 25th July, the business owners truly deserve a forking good review.  After reading of Pia's hard prep work, the licensing, the calorie counting, the assembly, the marketing, the clean up,  the shopping, sleep and repeat, makes me appreciate our local food truck even more.  Go local business, GO!

So, if you are looking for a fun read that will make you laugh and whet your appetite, Brooklyn Girls is it.  It's new adult, but I don't think it's limited to a young readership.  Whether 22, or 34, or 66, life can be a daring adventure--crikey, I still haven't figured it out--but I hope that, like Pia, if you don't settle, if you dream big, and work hard, and never give up when you are passionate about something or someone, even if all the odds are stacked against you and there are baseball-batted loan sharks at your door, everything will work out in the end.
Patron, anyone?

Friday, June 7, 2013

Don't Let A Dicktard Dangle You, Old Sport!

This week, I want to discuss a particularly frustrating, fickle foible of the Dating Players' Game.  It's a strategy which I have entitled the 'I don't want you, but I continue to randomly text you, just to keep you dangling, because I am a... Dicktard.'

I'm sure you are familiar.  These specimen tend to have options and they know it!  They also let you know it.  On Facebook or out-and-about you will see such him or her, photographed in the arms of the non-you.  These Players are cautious about entering into an actual relationship with actual feelings, placing all their eggs or squirmy semen in one life raft!  Much better to drift and send up a flare every now and then, to see if the eggs or semen of the rejected castaway, come whooshing back for more.

It's definitely a trend I am seeing and hearing of more and more, and guess what, it is by no means gender specific, women throw out that text lasso as often as men.  So what does it say?  What should we do, how should we react to this?

Let's break this down.  It's just a wild stab in the dark--pardon--but if someone of the opposite sex, who you may have had a dalliance with at some time or another, is contacting you, it is generally not because they are concerned about your happiness quota, or to discuss the weather.

Textual comms. are usually resumed because Mr. or Mrs. Dicktard Dangler wants to know if you are still 'on the hook'.  Do you still give a damn?  I guess this is a power and control thing.  It's part of their game: will they/won't they respond?  Maybe he/she is lonely and misses the witty textual repartee.  Maybe, but either way, this re-connection is more about them than you.

But your reaction says a lot about you.  Perhaps the 'ping' and glow of one's phone revealing the name of him/her and their inane sentiment, sends you breathless with longing, delighted that, though spurned, you are not forgotten.  (It is, after all, horrid to be easily forgotten.)  Maybe, as tortuous as it is, you would rather be stung by remembrance, than shrivel with neglect. And if you've been more stung than little Macaulay Culkin in My Girl, then maybe re-evaluate why you are attracted to someone who persists in hurting you.  You are a masochist.  Seek help.

I have a dear male friend, who was kicked to the curb recently by the gal he'd been dating.  She revealed she was dating someone else--TA DAH!--and that someone else was not him.  Booooo.  So--because he has a spine--End Scene.  He was actually fine with it; he's buoyant like that and can't be kept down for long.  He sulked for a few hours and then got on with things--chaps can do that compartmentalizing so well, can't they?

Well, he is going about life, setting up dates and then BAM!  There it kryptonite glowing green from the face of his phone:

Ms. Dicktard Dangler                    6.09PM
Hey!  How are you?  I miss you!

Well, that's as maybe.  She might very sincerely give a crap, she might honestly care as to his well-being--I'm sure that's what she would say to him if he asked; but odds are, she just misses the attention and her Texan-sized Ego wants to know that she's still got it and could get him back if she chose.  But when you choose someone else, you relinquish the right to feel lonely and tell the one you jilted about it!  It's not sweet, or thoughtful, it's selfish.

I'm all for remaining friends with past flames, but to fan them just for one's ego, makes you an Arse-onist.  Certainly, you may be thinking, "Well, surely if you don't want to play the catch and release game, if you have been rehooked and gaffed enough to know that that shit hurts, then block their number!  Simply don't respond.  Ignore.  Delete.  Move on."  But when you care, it's really hard to give up, Jay Gatsby never gave up.

I wonder how The Great Gatsby would have ended if Daisy Buchanan had had the ability to text.  She would have been the prime example of a Dangler.  I imagine her in her sheer, gauzy, draped world, languishing on her chaise, tapping idly on her I phone:

Jay, darling.  How are you?  I miss you!  (She's sad for herself of course, but rather oblivious to all else.)

Daisy!  Old Sport!  Come away with me.  Jay would reply, sucked back in, as hopeful as always.

Oh darling, I would if I could.  It's just impossible!  And there, reassured, she would go back to... what?  Lying on a sofa, playing with her drapes, being fay and slightly pathetic.

Maybe that's harsh, maybe Daisy just annoyed me because here was someone wanting to give her the moon on a stick, someone she loved in returned, but she was too spineless to communicate that.  She just kept Jay dangling... promising much and delivering nothing.

So what am I saying here?  When you end things, chatty check-ins are not on?  Well, poor Jay Gatsby doesn't get the chance to find out, but for the rest of us... heck, we are adults in this crazy communicating circus.  I think it would be pretty sad if former flames did not communicate, but maybe there needs to be a period of time, a statute of limitations, during which there's a text ban.   This gives Danglee time to galvanize spirits without the passive aggressive, emotionally-regressive influence of constant texts, designed to whip, lasso and reel him/her back to heel.  Then maybe, when a season of other deliciously awful, or--hopefully--awfully delicious dates have pushed disappointment into the darker, distant whorls of memory, maybe, just maybe you can be friends.  Though whether opposite sexes can ever truly be platonic friends... well, that's a whole other blog, isn't it?

Friday, May 24, 2013

I'll take Happiness Squared. In which I Accept a Surprising Proposal...

Bermuda.  I was there.  Last week, actually.  This was not your usual break away to escape the gloom and build an early tan to boast to your friends.  It was not a girls' trip to read chick-lit, drink frozen margaritas and eye up shirtless male travelers.  It was not a solo voyage to clear my head, fill my lungs and relax; or one to inspire the little grey cells, imprinting them with vision anew.  It was, in fact, a trip I cavalierly agreed to, going with someone I barely knew, just... because... he...asked.  No prior dates, no uncomfortable flirtation, just an invitation... to Bermuda.

Let me back was a cold January, I believe snow was on the ground and my fishnets weren't cutting it.  I needed a vacation, badly.  Recent relations had faded without feeling or fanfare; friends were largely unavailable to just up and leave and sally forth.  But then, this chap!   What a ballsy move to invite someone who, for all he knew, could have been a raving, bunny-boiling, non-armpit shaving weirdo.  I rather admired his savoir faire.  Lots of my friends said he was a decent fella, why not?!  And I spoke to a couple of pals who said they would take advantage of this great deal and we would go as a group!  TA DAH!  High seas and Sea Breeze(s).

So he booked, and I booked and... they didn't book.

Kinda, sorta interesting social experiment don't you think?  Can a girl and boy with a penis go away together?  Is that OKAY?

Apparently not, according to the flack I received.  Two people of the opposite sex can't possibly keep things kosher, can they?  What an interesting test, thought I.  So I didn't really let the lack of friends hold me back and I decided that this modern woman should and would go!  It could be Bon Voyage without Bon Vagina!

Flip through the next few three-ring circus-tour high-wire months, but needless to say talk of Bermuda and social activity did indeed bring us closer.  I really liked the Boyo.  And then... BERMUDA.

There is so much I could say about this small island: how I felt like a wide-eyed child to discover that over 500 shipwrecks fringe the coast; that the indigenous dishes were few and untempting—fish soup?  Anyone?  Anyone?; the Disney-esque, translucent aqua marine of the sea, too clear and too azure to be believed; the pastel hues of the painted houses peppering the hilly landscape; the fortifications on every corner of this much-invaded isle; the crystal caves pierced like a conjurer’s box with sharp stalactites and stalagmites; but you can see all that on the postcard, or the glossy brochure, if you care to look.  
Background: The Crystal Caves.  Foreground: 1980's Fame Retard.

I could tell you how I sailed there on a ship, alongside 2000 fellow passengers, enjoying nightly entertainment from Broadway Star, Liz Callaway, Las Vegas Illusionist, Jason Bishop, Bill Cosby entertainer-impersonator, not to mention the exhausting-to-watch singer-dancer cast from Blighty.  I was jazz-handsing in my sleep.  

Of course, the food was plentiful.  I think I feasted on more courses in 7 days, than I usually consume in 7 weeks, but all was sumptuous, unctuous, fresh and flavourful.  It was a gourmand’s paradise.  No, really, it was.  

But that's not what you really want to read about, is it?
I have been criticized before for being too public and too open, so I will seamlessly glide over the method and results, but this was my analysis: I think all opposite-sex friends or dating partners should go on a cruise early on in their acquaintance, because having to share a bathroom, that is about as big as my handbag, with someone who is not family or ultra close friend, will have major repercussions on the course of your friendship/relationship!  You have to share shit.

I can't imagine I am the easiest travel companion: I wake up early; I demand silence to write; I don't like it too cold; I want to go to every entertainment show; I don't want to lie on a beach; I want to run around the island and see everything, do everything, swim everywhere; and if I get the chance to see dolphin I will make you wait for hours in the rain while I watch them.  So it is truly a test for any sun-loungered male to join in and keep smiling.

Near Tobacco Bay, north on St. George, Bermuda.

And yet, said Bermuda Boyo, made the adventure so much more fun, by being there, always at the ready with a terrible pun, an equally awful joke, a witty commentary on odd sightings and sayings, "She has a smile in the face!"--the Captain's introduction about one of his crew, that Boyo repeated throughout the trip, making me snort with laughter.  Maybe I just love that someone over 35 would race me down 11 flights of stairs and slide down the banisters on the last flight to fall headfirst into the elevator door! ;)

I am an independent 33 year old woman and it’s an internal struggle to admit to needing someone there.  Not a need, I’m fine, as long as I have words I could survive as a hermit, but crikey life is more fun when you have someone to share it with.  (Maybe I need a dog.)  I am reminded again of Into the Wild the true survival story of Jon Krakauer “Happiness is only real when it’s shared.”  So maybe, if a problem shared is a problem halved, maybe happiness shared is happiness doubled?  Is there an equation to calculate one’s happiness quota?   If we all just shared a bit more, would we be happier?

I don’t know, I’m just trying to work it out and not sound like a Hallmark card, or a high Julie Andrews, but maybe there's truth in there them cliches?  I want to proceed through life on the path that is fun and exciting; that helps others most and hurts others least; a path where doing the right thing and the good thing are one and the same. 

Conclusion: I want to "race" to "adventure," to sweat through the foot hills and speed along the coast road.  I want to find the hidden bays, with rock pools teaming with anemones, starfish, crabs and green things that go "squelch."  It really doesn't matter if it rains, or if you are conned into buying the local tourist trap overpriced rancid cocktail, with good people at your side you will always be sure of someone to share with.  I suppose the difficult question is sorting the wheat from the chaff, and finding the most compatible peeps to adventure forth with.  I’m working on that, and I think I am getting there.  But a companion who likes to share appetizers and desserts, is always a good sign.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Conversation... In which I discuss Exclusivity (and die a little inside).

Overheard in the ladies bathroom of a well-known Masonic building, an enclave of slightly well-beered and overly-blurry females:
“Sweetie, you owe him nothing.  Nada.  Nicht.  He may think what he likes, but unless you’ve had the conversation you are just dating and therefore you can see who you like, when you like.” 

I cringed as I hovered silently over the toilet seat.  It’s hard enough to pee in a public bathroom, but throw in a juicy conversation and a gaggle of on-listeners and it’s urine shut down.  I emerged, sheepishly from my stall, wanting to look up, but English repression forbidding it.  Hurrah for many mirrors!  It was as cliché as it gets: one holding the glasses, one the purses, one taking her turn in the mirror and smearing her come-get-me gloss lavishly across her lips. 

Under the loud flow of the faucet I missed a bit, but never did a pair of average-sized hands take so long to dry.

“But you’re missing the point!”  Said the one who had now reinserted the wand to the gloss and was wiping the smudges of shimmer off her lip lines.  “If this were two weeks in, fine!  I’d agree with you.  But it’s not and I’ve slept with him.  That redefines everything.  There may not have been the conversation, but there was conversation alright.”

I ferreted in my purse—my Mary Poppins hearse purse is enormously useful for such time-stalling situations; it takes minutes to find anything in there it is so cavernous—and finally drew out my hairbrush.  I began to fuss and count the strokes.  (I wasn’t really, of course.)

“DIS-A-GREE!” The slightly more looped of the three, triple-fisting the glasses returned, “No conversation, no exclusivity!  Sex makes no difference, it’s neither here nor there.”
“No, believe me.  It wasn’t here.  But it was definitely there, and in the kitchen, the bedroom, the living room …” They cackled, gave one last nod to the mirror, and the three drifted from the basement bathroom and back into the hubbub of the Brews.

I looked at myself in the mirror: I was not meant for this harsh, unfeeling world of dating.  I brushed my locks and considered the issue.  Had anyone ever broached the conversation with me?  No.  Relationships had just… happened.  Organically.  There had never been any verbal contract of exclusivity, I had just—rather foolishly I realized then—assumed it.  If someone wanted to spend their time with me, it had really never even dawned on me that they would on the other nights—while I toiled like a dung beetle—be other with other women at the same time.  It never occurred to me that there needed to be an agreement made, insisted on.  I was wide-eyed at the thought that one could be sleeping with one and dating many others—that just sounds exhausting.  Of course, I know people do, but I was thinking of it in relation to the anti-romances I had had.

Is this, The Conversation, something that one should insist on?  If so when?  And what—oh dear God—if one wants to say “no thank you very much, I do like you, you’re a jolly nice bloke, but actually I rather want to consider other penises right now.  No offense!  Tally ho.”  

Or what if—Heaven forfend—a chap says to you, a lady, “Sorry there Toots, but I want to explore my… options.”  Does one smile, shrug shoulders and continue, after one has been so snubbed?  My mind was a whirring cosmic fire of unrest. 

I just find the whole topic unsettling, because it is so far from my romantic ideal.  To use James Fleet’s expression, from Four Weddings and A Funeral, I rather hoped it would just be “Thunderbolt City,” and he would forget all ideas of anyone else, as I would.  And nothing would corrupt this mutual feeling of yearning, not conflicting schedules, not friends of the opposite sex, not long absences, not all the little fucking stupid things that are thrown up by the projectile vomit of our past; that there would be this mutual acceptance. 

I suppose that’s what happens when it is Thunderbolt City.  Maybe the ones that get so easily derailed, and need such contracts and verbal reassurances, are the ones that were never headed anywhere anyway.  Regardless, it makes me sad.  Sad that I've never asked for this conversation, but that maybe it would have saved many hurt feelings.  This oral tornado would blow in and sweep misunderstanding up and away. 

I have discussed this with a few friends this week. 
“So…Shera, Princess of Power, what’s your take on exclusivity?”
“Non-negotiable. I sat He Man down and said, ‘Look, Mister, are we together, or are you screwing every underage cutesie at the Backyard Ale House on a Saturday night?  Because if you are, ding ding, stop the bus, you are getting off.  And not with me.’”  I applauded her bravado, but knew I could not be so forthright.  Mainly because, I am not sure I would like the answer.  If one asks, but is told there are others--gulp!--is it so easy to walk away if one is invested?

I asked my dear male friend on his take, “Absolutely, there needs to be a conversation.”  He said adamantly.  “I wasn’t always like that.  But I got burned, and that means now I’m not putting all my eggs in one basket, so-to-speak.  I can date more than one woman at the same time with no remorse.” 

And then there was a third and final take on it, without me even asking he told me clearly where he stands, because he will not even allow the female he is dating to have male friends—even if her intentions are well meaning and she only has eyes, lips, heart, longing for him.  He has little trust in her, because of his prior experience.  Can a partner not have friends of the opposite sex?  Can she/he not meet him/her for an uncontracted, but understood, mutual friends drink?  Do we need to classify every interaction we have just to make sure intentions are interpreted correctly?  "Hey, Will, Buddy-oh-friend-of-mine, fancy meeting for a beverage and a non-sexual-interaction-because-we-are-friends-who-don't-share-bodily-fluids?"  Not every male-female friendship turns into Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis reaping the benefits!

GAH!  I would that we could start every relationship as if we’ve never dated.  As if this is new and we haven’t become jaded, mistrustful, cynical and sad.  Forget what has gone before, damn it!  That's not to say don't learn from experience, but don't assume the new partner will be like the old. We are individual, different human beings, who strive for success and make mistakes; we are largely just as confused as each other, because, guess what, we are not mind readers!

Trust, jealousy, longing, contracts.  I suppose, the conversation--however unromantic it is, as much as I’d prefer to plunge my fist down my throat and rip out my heart as more eloquent proof—is necessary.  Maybe there are so many mixed signals these days that one simply can’t trust the organic process.  Maybe there needs to be that clarification that both are singing from the same hymn sheet.  That one is not getting overly invested in a heart that is overly invested in many other mutual funds.  And maybe the triple-fisting girl, swaying slightly in the reflection of the bathroom mirror, was right all along, her unromantic, practical negotiation stamping on my open heart.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Ding Dong, I love your Pong! In which I discuss Pheromones.

Imagine: you met him on Match, or Eharmony, or wherever.  He has teeth, a job, and likes animals.  You arrange to meet in a public place.  He suggests that chic, fine dining place that you know you shouldn’t really afford, but what the heck! 

He is there, waiting at the bar, with his neat amber measure bathing on the rocks.  He looks good, better than his picture, and you start to wish that maybe you hadn’t hurried straight from work, but had stopped to tame the humidi-fizzed nest on your head, that maybe you had spritzed with your perfume and sucked on a Listerine tab, reapplied the lip gloss that feels like a weight in your pocket. 

But the date goes off well.  He compliments you, asks you questions, orders the wine with alacrity; suggests a couple of appetizers to start.  He waves the waiter over and speaks with bon homie, like he’s been there a thousand times before and he and the waiter are great mates.  You notice the way he treats people and acknowledges them with a raise of his dark brows and a Cheshire Cat beam.  He is confident.  People like him, and you like that. 

You share dishes.  It’s surprising, this sudden coupling, but you go with the flow and enjoy his attention.  At the end of the date, you see your reflection in his eyes.  His focus is all for you and it’s consuming.  You know you shouldn’t, but you do want to kiss him, to feel his hot lips on yours, the rhythm, the taste of him.  It’s a long unawkward kiss as you hover by your car—knowing that you should get in and drive away, but that kiss! 

The next dates pass just as the first, but the kisses are deeper, longer.  He’s full of stories!  So entertaining!  He wears charisma like a leather onesie.  He makes you feel special.  And then IT happens, x number of dates in, maybe after three-too-many white lotus martinis: the frantic peel of clothes, the clash of flesh, the flail, the push, the pull, the thrust, the pneumatic motion as your bodies writhe in unison, pumping to catch that elusive wave that will bring both of you to shore, beached.  You fall asleep a tangle of sweaty spent limbs.  Morning comes early, you roll over and inhale the daylight, and UGH! GOOD GOD, WHAT IS THAT STENCH?
Hereeeeee's... Stinky Pete!

Just imagine.

Now, you are pretty sure he didn’t consume a double bean burrito last night.  He shared your flatbread and salad and drank from the same bottle of wine you did.  And you don't smell like a toxic wasteland.  No, you smell of vanilla and linen and sex.  He has not been poisoned by some dreadful unholy explosive gastric virus.  You are sure.  He sleeps.  You sniff.  You tent the sheets over your head.  Dear God, is this Auschwitz?  You rotisserie-chicken yourself over, not to disturb the slumbering form that was, pre-coital, quite lovely, but now… noxious.  You tentatively nestle back into that nook beneath his armpit, your flushed cheek burning through his cool contracting and expanding chest.  Maybe you were wrong.  You inhale again.  It’s not deadly farts, or inexplicable breath, it’s just... him.  He has a smell, and ain't no Gucci.

Pheromones.  Tricky little fuckers.  The scent that can drive a woman uninhibited and legs akimbo, or… sorry Chaps, running for the shower, or her keys, or the door.  Or all three.    

Scents are used to influence the senses.  This can be done defensively, ie: my brother pinning me to the ground and farting on my head; or as a lure, to turn a head just as a peacock tail, a six-pack, a delicious raucous laugh, a red Ferrari.  Scent can be key in sexual selection.  And I suppose this topic appeals to me because I can’t figure out how a chap, who could not be a good match in any way, shape or form, but—nice one Evolutionary Biology—has a smell so delicious to you that the bitter-sweet inhalation as your nostrils fill with the scent emanating from his skin, the waft of his manliness as you brush your cheek next to his in some faux display of civility, JUST GETS YOU, like someone has stabbed you in the intestines and twisted the knife like a Sicilian.  What is this Sense and Olfactory Captor?  What is this elixir that can drive us buck wild or headache-bound? 

Humans possess three major skin glands: sebaceous, eccrine and apocrine.  Apocrine glands occur in greatest concentration on the hands, cheeks, scalp, breasts and body hair and they are thought to produce this sexual elixir.  Interestingly, male apocrine glands are larger than women’s.  Women’s olfactory receptors are greater than men’s, and when women are ovulating their sense of smell becomes heightened.  It could be because the parental investment of women is greater than in men—we have to put in 9 months at least—so sniffing out a suitable mate has more consequences to a female.  Yup, the onus is on us.

So, Ladies, whilst it may seem like we are just suckers for Aqua Di Gio , Hermes, or High Intensity, we are not.  The underlying odour our nostrils are pulsating for, has deeper and greater significance for our offspring.  No wonder the perfume industry has been trying to bottle that bewitching ‘Love Spell’ for years.  Sadly, slaughtering deer for their musk, tigers, or goodness know what other poor creatures.  But it is not a fruity, oriental, musky, woodsy headache-inducing synthetic pong, it’s sex-smell from skin and hair that tells a potential partner about your DNA profile, a sequence of genes that broadcasts info about your immunity, and has us ovulating women snuffling for pheromones, as if for truffles!

In research on mice, females were found to choose males whose gene sequence least overlapped their own.  Ie: she wants her offspring to have as broad DNA and immunity profile as possible, so ensure a greater chance of survival.   In mice, the female sniffs out fitness by smelling her suitors urine.  In monkeys, they they rub urine on their feet to attract mates, advertising their immunity and therefore sexual fitness.  Now, I don’t know about you, but I have never sniffed my potential chap’s pee or rubbed my urine over myself.  (Hmm... maybe THIS explains why people enjoy golden showers?  Weirdos.)  However, I have made some shitty choices, so maybe I should.  Dogs waste no time in crotch-whiffing.
“Hey, I’ve just met you, and this is crazy, can I sniff your crotch please, and call me maybe?” 

There has been extensive research, not just on rodents, but I—a young college-attendee En--was part of such a project when I had to sniff male ‘T’ shirts and rate them for attractiveness—oh Phil Le Pelley and Dr. David Goulson, I remember—and women do prefer scents exuded from men whose MHC (major histocompatibilty complex) differs from their own.  And in terms of offspring fitness, that makes a lot of ‘sense’.  Lordy, innate instincts are clever. 

But there’s a twist—oooooh—yes, oral contraceptives can screw a female’s olfactory senses.  Since the contraceptive pill fools the body into thinking it is pregnant, it reverses our natural preferences.  So maybe if he smells irresistible, and he is a prize Bastardly Dicktard, it is just because you are being betrayed by your daily baby blocker.  OH NO!  To really get a sense of him, you, ladykat friend, should take a break and give him a good old whiff around a more hairy area.  If you want to puke, you might want to question your choices; if he smells like sex and desire wrapped in a weirdly attractive non-six-packed body, then maybe he’s for you.

Maybe he nuzzles your neck to get to those scent releasing factories behind your ear.  His olfactory receptors are not as receptive as yours, but he can, according to research, subconsciously detect the pheromones females release when ovulating, and accordingly, testosterone levels in men are higher during these times and lower when not ovulating!  Way to go, Evolution, conserve manliness for times of need!  Yup, LadyKat, he is inhaling you there, because he knows you like his warm, whiskeyed breath behind your earlobe, it's because he's sensing your fertility, like a rutting buck.  

Soapy cleansers and perfumes make it harder for humans to detect true histocompatibility, but in the morning, sans contraceptive pill, when the Gucci has disappeared with the stars, take a good inhale of him.  If you click, if there is chemistry, if his stench and your waft make a nasal cocktail of chemical desire, that sends loins into overdrive, then tally ho!  If not, perhaps it's another biological siren that you should heave ho.

Caveat: I am not necessarily recommending sniffing crotches or asking for urine samples on a first date.  Second date?  Well, absolutely!
(And, if you do happen to take a contraceptive break, I am not responsible for the consequences.  Thank you.  PONG ON!)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Facebook Formu-lay: In which I discover The F.L.O.P System

Formula: A method of doing or treating something that relies on an established, uncontroversial model or approach

I knew from an early age that most things in life have a formula to them, an approach where x + y = a result.  Study + Go to University = a Degree.  Work + Effort = Reward.  Planking + Bakasana (crow pose) = Rocking Biceps.  Vodka + Club Soda = tasty, low calorie beverage.  Sperm + Egg = 9 months of Ice-Cream.  But relationships?  Relationships defy any kind formula.  You can’t predict them, or determine their longevity; they are the radioactive isotopes of the formula world.  There is no secret formula of Chemistry + Effort = Relationship.  The components are inconstant and unstable and have the tendency to explode at any minute… 3—2—1…

Lately, there has been a wee thimbleful of introspection in the Chernobyl Cataclysm of the Dating World of Eleanor and Friends.  Reader, come closer, let me whisper into your little peach-fuzz-coated ear, “It isn’t pretty.”  I’ve heard of dating disasters so diabolical, they would turn your skin Springfield green.  And it was thinking of this little Tour de Farce, that I realized there is a common thread here, a formula of sorts, not of components, but a formula that set the whole toxic leak flowing, it’s… Facebook.  The Facebook Formu-lay.

I canvassed women and men--well, a man--on the subject and it seems that Facebook is just another online dating site without the online dating stigma.  You may be a happily-coupled FB user merely chatting with old friends and uploading hundreds of photographs of your delightful little child caked in whatever it has been eating.  You may be content in your little fuzzy wuzzy world of joint bills and laundry-folding.  My clean linens swoop the floor as I try to fold them single-handedly like a drunken Tyrannosaurus Rex.  (And I HAVE relatively long arms.  How midgets fold king size bed sheets blows my mind.  I digress.)  Brace yourself, Contented Couplet, for as you post your Easter pictures of eggs and bunnies and unseemly amounts of chocolate, some FB acquaintance somewhere is messaging a woman/man they don't really know.

The canvassed male, let’s call him ‘Bruce’--his identity protected for the sake of his reputation with the fair ladies of Scranton—was in denial at first that any such system existed, that he had even used it himself.  But he had!  I showed him the volley of messages he had started between us, when ours was but a foetal friendship.
“It’s just how people communicate nowadays,” said he.
“But, examine the evidence, Bruce!  There is an undeniable system here.  Say a chap ‘friends,’ a lady; say he ‘likes’ a few pictures, maybe makes a few funny comments, he engages her in a private message, asks her questions about herself—that’s the small talk.  And this is the weird female bit, ladies who often have absolutely no interest in FB fella, who find this unsolicited attention a complete nuisance at first, sometimes even borderline harassment, suddenly become almost addicted to the attention.  The flurry of messages in a lady’s inbox makes Suzie FB Surfer completely enamoured, because she feels special.”
Bruce listened, unmoved, silent, processing.  I blathered on,
“And there will be some exchange of telephone numbers.  He will create some kind of plausible excuse to volunteer his digits or ask for hers.  A ‘Well, I’m going to be downtown at First Friday too, probably at the Radisson or wherever.  Text me if you want to know how it is over there, I’ll give you the 411.'  Or, 'I’m driving down to South Carolina, so I’m not going to be able to Facebook.  What’s your text number?'  Or, 'If you’re not going to chat with me via text I’m not going to bother writing to you anymore.'  So you give your number because, even if you weren’t interested at first, now you rather enjoy these messages!  They are exciting.  And, let’s face it, even if they weren't who wants to be the arsehole who doesn’t accept the friend request or refuses to give her number?  You know you are only going to see them at the bar, and you will awkwardly slosh your martini down your dry-clean only dress in a quick elbow-jerk reaction, and smile tightly over your brim, as you wish to Christ you lived in a bigger town."

“And THEN you are text buddies.  That’s the way it works, Bruce.  You may be strangers before, you may be freshly-friended acquaintances, you may be reunited old school buds, but that’s how it flows, from the natural springs of unpolluted friendships, to the stagnant cesspool of FB dating.”

Bruce rubbed his face, soberingly, his beard bristling as he did so. 
“Okay, okay.  So that may be true, but it’s not just men.  I’ve been solicited by women on Facebook.” 
“Really?”  I think I sounded more surprised than I intended.
“Yeah, I’ve even been blatantly propositioned by a married woman who works with my Dad.  So does her husband.  That was awkward.”

Which brings me to a side note:  Facebook, text, email, it makes cowards of us all.  We think it makes us brave, that we are taking a chance and sending someone a compliment, maybe typing something bold, risqué, adjectives and verbs that you would never dream of saying out loud to their face; but surely, if we would never say it to their face, should we type it?  Sorry Sexty People, but breathless descriptions are best gasped into the ear of the Intended, not typed to be read out loud to friends or forwarded to others.

“I’ve got it!”  Exclaimed Bruce.  “It’s the F.L.O.P. System.”
“I’m sorry?”  (I was still imagining him being cornered by the photocopier by his father’s busty, over-zealous married co-worker.)
“The F.L.O.P. System:
‘Friend’—that’s self-explanatory.
‘Like’—like a few of their posts or pictures so they get familiar with the name and knows the new friend to be friendly.
‘Observation’—take an interest in what they do, where they go, who they are friends with.  There is only one degree of connection in NEPA, so that’s a great way to start.  'Oh, you're friends with So-and-So!'  To a lesser degree, this is due diligence; to a greater degree it’s surveillance."
"Or stalking," I interjected.
‘Private Message’—engaging in private messages can be very revealing.  ‘Pokes’ and other FB comments one can ignore without seemingly being rude, but a private message is harder to shrug off."
"Especially," said I, jumping in with alacrity, "since you know you will see them at that bar over the sloshy rim of that that martini again!  It’s fate!  It’s going to happen.  That’s how it works, Bruce!  YES!  The F.L.O.P!  It doesn’t always secure a date, but the investment time of private messaging certainly increases the chances.  And if the date is firmed, it’s really F.L.O.P.D.!”
(this is when we laughed: “BHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.  Ha.  BHahaha. Hee.”)

FB has been the conduit that lead to 1, 2, buckle my shoe, 3, 4, maybe more, of my recent dating misadventures.  Heck, I suppose you have to ‘meet’ and get to know people someway, and at least on FB rather than some dating website, there are usually mutual friends who can vouch for Suddenly Chatty Chuck not being a complete weirdo who thinks he’s a Jedi Warrior, owns a collection of dolls and only eats jello.

I don’t mean to be disparaging, especially in the light of the whirling gauntlet we all duck, dodge and dive through, there just isn’t as much time to go around socially as if campaigning for an eligible male.
“Hello” *shakes hand* “My name is Eleanor and I’m campaigning for a bachelor with good teeth and …”  Can you imagine?

I have some friends, who worked the F.L.O.P.D. system and now they are happily living together and that’s great.  Yay!  Go them. 

I have some other friends who have been worked by the F.L.O.P system, desolate after the Flopper has flipped off and never communicated again.  It seems so ironic in a way that a tool that can be used for aiding and abetting communication, can be withdrawn at any time, or used against one in a hostile stand-off of silence.  I see some Machiavellian moustache-twisting and maniacal laughter as the Flopper ‘defriends’ his conquest.  Did Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg foresee that his social networking could be used as a game of sexual strategy, a communicatory/non-communicatory Battleship to find ones’ needs, ones’ weak spots?

As I thought more about this cruel retraction of ‘friendship’—that clearly was no true amity to begin with—I recalled the “D.E.N.N.I.S System” from Always Sunny in Philadelphia.  A girlfriend uploaded it on Facebook after her supposed boyfriend had ‘Separated Entirely.”  Sure, it’s funny.  Because it is true.  There are some men (and women, I am sure) who enjoy the power of game play, and I have to wonder what weird positive feedback they get from hurting people.  Were they not hugged enough as an infant?

Mindlessly disposing of people without a care in the world is beyond my ken, and a dangerous sociopathic path that seems all too common.  Perhaps behind the shield of a computer people feel disconnected and can dissociate words typed from words spoken.  Piffle!  There’s no excuse.  Interact with the human race, communicate, use Facebook if you must; and if you no longer want to do that then have the decency to say so using words, not silence.  We are not 10 years old, Dennis.