Friday, August 24, 2007

kiss de boy

"I mean," I slurred, going on three hours of half-pints at Brew at the Zoo, "there's so much about this that I don't want to mess up. And there's so much about him," I continued, imbued with the conviction that can only stem from irresponsible weeknight boozing, "that I always said I didn't want. He's younger, he's friends with my ex..."

The girls all nodded in wide-eyed unison, like good girlfriends should when someone is telling a good boy story.

"And it's funny, we know each other so well that last night we could say things to each other like 'if we were dating, tonight would have been the best date ever!'"

M sighed a deep and heartfelt sigh. "You totally don't want that to end, right?"

Perched on the ledge with my legs coquettishly crossed, I nodded in ladylike, giddy agreement. "It's like, once we cross that threshold, we can't go back! And right now it's all music and heartfelt confessions and sunrises and honesty. Who doesn't want to give that up?"

A slurped her beer and fixed me with her steely gimlet gaze. "And you guys haven't hooked up yet?"

I shrugged. "Nope. Not anything yet."

"So you know what you need to do," she said. A doesn't waste time with pleasantries, which is one of my favorite things about her. "At least make out with him."

Voices started chiming in along with her, "wait, you haven't made out with him? You haven't even kissed him and you're thinking about it this much already?"

"You guys," I laughed into my glass, "you sound like you're about to break into song."


I'm not sure how it started, but next thing I knew, my girlfriends had started singing in raggedy unison. "Shalalalalala, don't be shy, you gotta... *mumblemumblesomething* you gotta kiss de boy!" I think C busted out jazz hands, or, as close to jazz hands as one can get while holding a beer mug. I'm not sure because I was laughing so hard as I whipped my head around to see that their song and dance performance was gathering an audience. We were in a zoo, surrounded by drunks, and yet we were the ones being stared at.

They kept this up for a good minute or so, which it turns out is a really long time to have people drunkenly serenading you with repurposed Disney songs. As I tried to shush them while hiccuping and laughing, A said "of course, now when you do finally kiss him you're going to have this song stuck in your head."

"But I'm not even sure that I want to kiss the boy yet," I protested.

"Oh yes you are," she said. "You just don't want to admit it yet."

Crap. Drunk, singing, truth-telling, bullshit-cutting-through girlfriends. They'll getcha every time.

Monday, August 20, 2007

forty-eight hours

The lamplight bouncing off the brick wall outside my den window, looking like a still frame from West Side Story. Sadie snoozing on a pile of sweaters. Being able to fit into my vintage Navy bellbottoms for the first time in four years. Faye Dunaway's hair in The Thomas Crown Affair, then walking through the National Portrait Gallery listening to Nina Simone in silent homage to the remake. Hearing about Kim's new job. Superbad and The Simpsons Movie within twenty-four hours of each other. Downloading tons of Neko Case, still drunk off her voice from Thursday's show. Playing with the macro setting on my new camera. Zucchini the size of a nightstick from the Mt. Pleasant farmer's market. My little boy's vest from a consignment shop in Austin. Crashing a stranger's birthday and agreeing to go on a date with a guy who lives on a houseboat. Oversleeping. Hiphop dance class. Feeling borderline guilty having dirty thoughts about Michael Cera, then finding out he's legal and therefore it's okay. Going to sleep with the windows open and the AC off for the first time in months.

All in all, not a bad weekend.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

people you meet in grad school

I had my final class of the summer last night and, after handing in my scary Mormon paper, had nothing to do but watch my classmates give presentations on their own papers. Some were good, most were not so much. It didn't help matters that I was in a terrible mood from a crappy day at the office, a day made crappy by grad students who simply do not hush up and do what they're told because they think they're the most brilliant person ever to grace academia, and that we should all feel grateful to catch a glimpse of the sun shining out their ass.

I spent the first hour of the presentations replaying the season premiere of The Hills on a loop in my head, but one can only muse "God, Spencer is the douchiest douche that ever douched" so many times before her brain begins to short-circuit (quick side note-- if there are any bars in the Columbia Heights/Mt. Pleasant area who would organize a weekly viewing party for this show, you'd earn my undying gratitude. Based on the amount of shame-laden GChats about The Hills that I participated in yesterday, I really think there's a market for this). I came out of my reality TV coma just in time for a presentation on Cuba that I'm pretty sure was taken verbatim from Wikipedia. And went on for FORTY MINUTES. I was ready to chew on my arm from boredom and frustration. "Really, the Cuban Missile Crisis was the closest the world has ever come to nuclear war? What Earth-shattering news! As graduate students in American history, surely no one here has EVER heard such a shocking interpretation of the past! Do teach us more, O Wise One!"

If you can't tell, I was deeply annoyed by this point. It's not that I hate my fellow grad students, but after seven years in academia I am so very over students who just yaaaaaapyapyap to hear themselves talk. They never bother to ask questions because they don't want to look stupid, (even though, um, we're students! people who by definition are supposed to be learning) and so instead just bleat out whatever trite trusim happens to be on their mind. I swear to God, two weeks ago a classmate of mine made the brilliant, Eisteinian statement "Well, y'know... the world revolves around money."

WOW. Fuck me sideways with your genius, friend.

After you've been in school for a while, you get to recognize stock types specific to your program and can almost immediately tell from Day One how much of a tool someone is going to be. With this in mind, I present now what will be the first in a new series here on EJ Takes Life: People You Meet in Grad School. This first PYMIGS is dedicated to the most annoying person in my most recent class, someone I wanted to irrationally hate almost from the moment I saw her, but who did not take long to actually earn my ire through basically just sucking at life.

The Unattractive Belligerent Pro-Israel Girl

This girl likely did her undergrad at Berkeley, Michigan or one of the Seven Sister Schools. If there is a single mention of Israel, the Middle East, Judaism or the Holocaust in the entire class, her face will light up and she will lurch forward in her seat, suddenly eager to share her memories of her birthright trip, even if they have nothing to do with the subject at hand. She will scowl a lot, have very frizzy hair and carry a bag make of natural fibers. Odds are high that at some point in the semester she will accuse the professor of being anti-Israel and/or equate Palestinians with terrorists.

Monday, August 13, 2007

saturday night

I'm feeling good. No, I'm feeling damn good. The kind of good that can only come with a new haircut, paired with a new top that is just on thisside of overly trendy. The lights in the basement bar are golden and dim and I'm tossing my perfectly blown-out hair, delicately sipping champagne with my pinky slightly extended and flush with confidence and intentionally smudged eyeliner. I am woman, see me smolder.

I spot the guy across the bar and almost squawk a most unladylike laugh at his flailing limbs, spiky blonde hair and square-toed Aldo dress shoes. He could not be more of a Saturday night cliche, all gel and backslapping and Bud Light bottles. Normally this type of guy repulses me, makes me roll my eyes and want to move to another city where there are men who lie in between this type and the indie rock snob boymen that I typically gravitate towards. But tonight, after four hours of bellinis and silk wafting around me, I suddenly decide: mine. Sipping my champagne as I dance with my friends, I make a tiny bet with myself. Get him in five minutes, EJ. For fun, just because tonight, you feel like maybe being a little like a Neil LaBute femme fatale. Knowing, maybe a touch of cruel, definitely a tease.

It's ridiculously easy. A few moments of eye contact, a strategically timed dip and grind against the air, and he's right next to me, suddenly having emigrated from beside the bar. He extends his hand to me, accompanied by a smug grin as the dulcet tones of Rihanna pulse through the bar. I'm all false shyness and humility and "oh really? me?" as I hand my glass to my friend, tucking my clutch under my arm as he pulls me towards him.

He's a terrible dancer. He thinks he has good moves for a white boy as he jerks around the floor, bumping into groups of girls staring at him with bemused eyebrows raised to the heavens. The hem of his his blue striped dress shirt flops as he pulls me towards him, grabbing my hand to loop around his lanky neck. As my hand rests on the back of his neck, I feel a small rivulet of melting product trickle down the nape. Ew.

"What's your name?" he shouts in the general direction of my ear.

For a moment I consider saying what I think: You really care? Instead, I tell him my bar name. The fake name that I give to the dumb club boys I'll never see again even though they've groped my inner thigh without permission. I don't tell them my real name because it cheapens me, gives away even a tiny part of me that such transience doesn't deserve.

I don't hear his response, and I don't care. I'm already bored with him. I knew he was ridiculous from the moment I saw his moves, and his eyes are already starting to wander around the room even as his hands travel up and down my body. Nothing R-rated, but most certainly PG-13.

Suddenly I feel his hands grab my waist and throw me towards the floor in a misguided attempt at a dip. Caught off guard, I stumble in my three-inch heels and grab at his arms for dear life. He jerks me back up just as suddenly as he threw me to the floor, guffawing with buffoonish laughter as his buddies circle behind him, all "awwww, dawg!"

Trying to catch my breath after having narrowly escaped dismemberment on the dance floor, I lean in towards him. "You're a very enthusiastic dancer," I yell over the music, trying to inject as much acid as I can given the necessary volume of my voice.

"What?!" he screams back at me.

Why even bother trying to bait this guy? He's nothing I'll ever see again, no one I'm remotely interested in talking to even if circumstances would permit it. I wanted to get his attention to boost my already-soaring ego for the evening, and I got it. Case closed.

I spin away from his grasp, half dancing with him and half with my friends. I face them and roll my eyes, exaggeratedly mouthing Save me with big eyes. K grabs my hand and pulls me back into their circle, handing off my champagne glass. I take it and insert myself back into their circle, not looking back at Whatshisface.

I dance up on my friends and for a moment feel a tinge of something resembling regret. Regret that my armor is so thick, that I am so easily able to not care about a stranger, even one who in all likelihood has ungentlemanly intentions towards me and my person. Guilt that I'm proud of my ability to reel in and discard, guilt in my pride that I'm not more proper and that for tonight I'm so cocky that I don't care about being my normal, fairly decent self. Silliness for feeling that guilt because this is so not a big deal, nothing that a million people haven't done a million times before, strangers circling one another like vultures out for carrion.

And it's another night out, another nothing moment in another city under the cloud-soaked stars.

Friday, August 10, 2007

in which love tries to entertain and miserably fails

DateLab Update: G says he's swamped at work today and won't have time to post his account of his Washington Post Datelab date until tonight or tomorrow. I think he's just tired from a long night of making his date feel beautiful. But thank you to those of you who posted your dating advice. So far as I know, G neither got smashingly drunk or attempted to slay the waiter with an axe. I, however, have done one of these on a first date before. I'll leave you to guess which one.

In other dating and relationship news, I finally got around to watching the American remake of The Last Kiss last night. It happened to be on HBO after I crawled home, thoroughly spent after my scary Mormon history presentation. In a nutshell:

- I am officially completely and totally over Zach Braff. Not only was he woefully miscast, but he clearly identifies way too much with the worst aspects of this character. Of which there are many.

- Italian people can scream and yell and throw things and it's totally okay. However, it's not okay when Americans do the exact same things in the exact same scenarios. We social scientists call that "culture."

- I still love the song "Chocolate" enough to not resent its inclusion in this film. But just barely.

- This movie made me want to crawl into bed alone and pull the covers over my head and whimper all night. Which is pretty much what happened, only with additional guilt that I was more upset and depressed by The Last Kiss than by Saving Private Ryan.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Datelab Appetizer

Friends—in addition to not being at all recovered from Lollapalooza, I’m majorly hurting for content. Unless you really want to read all about my work, or about the Mormon historiography paper that is currently occupying every brain cell not wrapped up in work, I don’t got much for you. So here’s a guest-post from my buddy G, who has volunteered for something very cool and is willing to share his (unedited) reaction to the whole thing here on EJ Takes Life.

Hello, there, I am EJ's friend, G. On the advice of two friends, including EJ, I signed up for the Washington Post's "Datelab." Datelab is the Post Magazine's foray into the world of dating, setting up two perfect strangers on a blind date (usually matching them by thoroughly superficial criteria), and then interviewing them the next day and the next week, and publishing the post-mortem reports. Few of these dates end as unmitigated successes, but I have seen few disasters so far. With just a little push, I signed up.

The questionnaire contained some of the normal questions (What do you do on the weekends? Are you an axe murderer?), as well as some questions for which I was unable to supply any remarkably clever answers. They seem to cherry pick which questions get published along with the couples every week, so I just hope that creative editing doesn't make me look like a total buffoon. My date is tonight at a restaurant with good reviews and an interesting menu in Bethesda, so we will see how it goes tonight. Having just exited a multi-month relationship, I haven't been single or been on a first date since January, so worst case scenario would be I get a free meal and a story out of this... unless my date says awful things about me that then get published in the Post.

I probably should have thought this through a little better.


Readers—any last-minute advice for G? Don’t forget to tune in tomorrow to get G’s report of the meal, the girl, and how it feels to converse with someone knowing she’ll be giving a reporter a ranking of your dating skills.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


I'm still not at all recovered from Lollapalooza. For one, a three day rock concert, vicious sunburn, mild to moderate auditory damage and total sleep deprivation followed by a full day of pretending to be a functional employee do not lend themselves to a quick recovery. Also, I was up until one this morning writing a paper and editing my photos. For YOU. For you GREEDY BLOG READING PEOPLE. The things I do for you, sheesh. It's totally your fault if I'm unable to focus my eyes for the rest of the day.

G. Love singing at Kidzapalooza, the kiddie tent. He does a bitchin' cover of The Elmo Song.

Craig Finn of The Hold Steady. This was easily my favorite show of the whole festival. He actually looks happy to be there, as opposed to Amy Winehouse, who surprised everyone by showing up and starting on time but spent her set looking like she'd rather be getting her teeth cleaned.

We missed most of !!! because Peter Bjorn and John had sound problems before playing "Young Folks" and Jen refused to leave. What we saw, however, was awesome.

This might be a good time to mention that we also left early on Friday and skipped Daft Punk. In retrospect, that decision slots in at #4 on EJ's Bad Life Choices List. You don't get to know the others.

Snow Patrol. You know how I love Snow Patrol, right? How "Chocolate" is the song I will forever identify with my early twenties? And how, even after Grey's Anatomy and radio overplaying and every sorority in America playing"Chasing Cars" at semiformal, I will always, always love them? Good, glad we're on the same page there.

And some token city/festival shots.

And then I find out this morning that my sister went ahead and edited all of her video, posted it on Youtube and completely outshone all of my hard work.

*WARNING: What you are about to click on is maybe the most embarrassing footage ever taken of a human being in the history of time, and yes, that includes all of From Justin to Kelly. I put it up here because I feel that as loyal readers, you deserve to know how much of a tremendous dork I truly am. I've not been shy about telling you this, but it has never been so well-illustrated until now.

Also, the reason I'm speaking like I'm in a bad community theater production of My Fair Lady is because Jen and I spent the entire weekend imitating M.I.A's accent. "Loh-la-pah-LEW-sah, wheh you aht?!" It seemed hilarious at the time, but perhaps you had to be there. Of course, now you practically will be.

Oh, and yes, I look and sound like a clown, but at least I didn't misspell "Chocolate." Nice to know that fancy college is edumacating my sister so thoroughly.


Monday, August 06, 2007

actual instructions i gave to a staffer today after flying back from lollapalooza this morning

"When you get a minute, can you take these tab... divider... things? And put the sticker tab things on them? I made stickers... enough of them-- wait, what's seven times twenty-five? Just slap 'em on there."

In my defense, not ten hours before issuing said instructions I was in a field in Chicago covered in sweat and balls-out rocking to Pearl Jam. Because being twenty-five means being in that wonderful liminal stage when one stills goes to things like Lollapalooza, yet one has responsibilities awaiting her at home and is unable to take a badly, badly needed vacation day to recover from acting like a teenager when she is most clearly no longer such.

It also means that I didn't know whether to be flattered or deeply creeped out at the Muse set when a high school senior tried to pick me up with the line "I have a two-door Honda Civic."

More Lolla coming once I get some sleep. Just you wait until Jen and I upload the photos and you can check out my white girl dance moves.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

the first of what will be many turkey/thanksgiving puns

So far this year I've spent my vacation days on four family weddings, ten days in the Midwest caring for sick relatives, two family weekends in New York, and one long weekend sleeping on a deeply uncomfortable pull-out couch at the cabin. I'd say that of the total time spent with family this year, eighty percent of it was genuinely enjoyable and there was no place else I'd rather have been, fifteen percent of it has been fine in a "not at all what I'd choose but it sure is nice to see everyone happy" kind of way, four percent has been bad and one percent has been so teeth-gnashingly, hair-pulling-out hellish that I had to leave the house and drive to the parking lot of a Dairy Queen to call a friend and confirm that I was not crazy, but everyone else was.

I don't live close to any family, and there are days that I feel badly about this. A lack of geographical proximity, however, has hardly precluded the amount of time spent with them so far this year. I've spent more days with my parents than with several people I'd call close friends, a scenario that hasn't happened since I had a curfew and wore my dad's flannel shirts. And while certain members of my extended family drive me up the proverbial wall, I look at time spent with them as a necessary evil in order to spend time with the fun ones, the people I would voluntarily choose to be related to had I a real say in the matter.

As things have been piling up at work and school threatening to pull me under a sea of arcane academic snobbery, my parents started dropping hints that we would be doing Thanksgiving in the town they now live in. A place I've never been to, where I know no one, a place that is six hours from where I grew up, two hours from a major city, and where the greatest attraction is the big screen TV in my parents' basement. "Aaaaand," my mother crowed when telling me of such a cultural milestone "we have digital cable!" They way she said it made it sound like Lollapalooza would be taking place in the backyard.

This development did not excite me. Nor did further developments, chiefly the revelation that certain of those family members would be joining us. These are individuals who, admittedly, we don't see that often, but oh Lordy, when we do... it's not good. They're not nice people to begin with, but as I have acquired the reputation for being the Slut Singleton From The Big City Who Thinks She's Better Than Everyone Else (a tag, by the by, that is at most seventy percent accurate), some of these individuals take particular pride in ragging on me in a way that a casual observer might find affectionate but which everyone involved instantly recognizes as being mean-spirited and utterly without purpose, beyond trying make me feel bad about my choices. Which is basically just a bunch of big words that translate into "Aunt [Fillintheblank] is a total fucking bitch."

Last week I announced to my parents that I would not be coming home for Thanksgiving. They shocked me, in that they not only didn't yell and administer guilt trips, but that they endorsed the idea.

"Honestly, we understand," my dad said as I gawped in utter confusion on the other end of the line. "You work a lot, you're in school, you're out every night. You're a big kid; you can have a vacation where you relax and aren't always looking after other people."

But-- I had a list! I initiated that conversation only after making up a list of valid, polite reasons why instead of turkey with family, I wanted to go TO Turkey with friends. And the list of reasons didn't even include "because Aunt [Fillintheblank] is a total fucking bitch." Look at that maturity and restraint! Aren't you proud? You're not supposed to just agree to this wackadoodle plan! Don't you want to hear my reasons?!

"Honey, we said yes. Or rather, we say that you don't need our permission to not come home for Thanksgiving."

Long pause.

"Does that mean that you'll let me use Mom's frequent flyer miles to buy a ticket to Istanbul?"

Shorter pause.

"I suppose so."

Not to brag or anything, but whatever my extended family lacks in awesomeness, the immediate family completely makes up for it.