Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Dating Game

Why is dating so difficult? I remember hearing my mother talk about dating when she was younger. There were hard-and-fast rules for her... things like, "Nice girls don't." We still hear that, of course, but we also get the message of, "Liberated women can sex up whomever they want, whenever they want. Any one who disagrees is a misogynistic caveman."

I think, any more, that each woman must develop her own rules... her own system of deciphering what she'll do and what she won't, what's tolerable to her and where her red flags are. I've hacked and slashed in the dating world long enough that I have a pretty decent grid layed out, complete with landmines and water obstacles.

For example, I don't ask for the first date. In fact, I've never asked for a first date. That doesn’t mean I’ve never asked a man to dinner, just that I typically leave the initial request up to him. I know, I know, it’s a bit old-fashioned, but I can’t help the feeling that my grandfather would roll in his grave if he found out I asked some strange man to dinner. I will, however, say something like, “Hey, wanna do dinner Thursday night?” to a man I’ve already seen a few times. That’s just my style.


For a first date, you should offer to pick me up, but don’t be surprised if I tell you I’ll meet you somewhere. I don’t know you well yet, and I may not feel safe climbing into a stranger’s car. Regardless of how we’re meeting up, you should be a little early (“a little” = 10 minutes), so that if I’m early, too, I’m not sitting alone in a restaurant somewhere, looking like the girl who got stood up. If you’re picking me up, wait in your car down the block until its right at the designated pick-up time. Punctuality is great, but I’ll be mortified if I’m still in my curlers when the door-bell rings.

Your Cel Phone

Unless you’re a doctor, turn it off. That’s right. O-F-F… OFF! I’m a special person. I deserve your undivided attention. If you’re looking at your hip every two minutes to see why your phone is vibrating, you’re not paying attention to what I’m saying. It doesn’t make you look important or popular, it makes you look rude and egocentric. I’ve been known to refuse a second date with a man because he answered his cel during dinner.

The Dinner Debate:

On the first date, you should pay. I’ll offer to either pick up the tab or pay half, but I’m expecting you to say “no”. For subsequent dates, if you ask, you pay; if I ask, I’ll pay. Once you initiate “Dutch”, where you pay half and I pay half, it’s thereafter the established form of dinner transactions, and you can expect to hear things like, “I can’t this week. I’m broke.” Another acceptable way of handling the dinner transaction is to say, “Hey, you wanna leave the tip?” It’s a less analytically-intense form of Dutch, it lets me know that you’d like me to throw a little money on the table, and neither one of us have to feel cheap sweating over how to split a nickel. We can switch back and forth that way indefinitely… you buy this week, and I’ll tip… next week I’ll get the bill and you can leave the tip.

The Tip:

If there’s a way I can sneak a peak on the sly, I’m going to. I won’t be obvious about it, but don’t think that I won’t know how much you leave. Being cheap with wait staff (unless they did an awful job) is a total turn-off. If you can’t afford to leave a decent tip, you can’t afford to eat at that particular restaurant. Blowing money you don’t have isn’t sexy, it’s stupid.

If you can’t afford to wine and dine me at that super-expensive restaurant, let’s go to the local BBQ joint, or the cute little fish and chips place that was your favorite in high school. I’m out with you for the pleasure of your company, not so I can sink my teeth into a top-choice steak. If you’re really, really broke, why not invite me for a picnic at a local park, or have me over and cook for me? Both activities are special and intimate, and even though you’re not dropping half of your paycheck on them, I’ll appreciate the effort you put into the interaction.


If you picked me up, at some point, you’ll have to drop me off. You should definitely walk me to the door, but if we’re in the first few dates (“few” = 3 or 4), leave your car running. That automatically takes the pressure off of me to invite you in (unless I’ve done so already), and I’ll be much more comfortable.

The Kiss

Some people play with their keys. Some people bite their lip. Others watch the lips of their date. Any of those are reasonable indications that I’d like a kiss. You should lean in slightly, and I’ll either stand still (meaning you’ve read me wrong) or lean in, too. Mirror-leaning means its okay to pucker up, but don’t go overboard with it. A quick kiss is nice, or a closed-mouth kiss with a bit of a linger, but don’t try to take my temperature with your tongue. If there’s gonna be tongue, let me initiate it. I can’t tell you how gross it is to have a perfectly nice date ruined by a guy who got greedy with the smooch at the end.

The Thank-you Call:

As far as the “call-back”, it’s perfectly appropriate (and appreciated) for you to call the next day and thank me for the evening. Don’t be long-winded, and it’s better if you can catch the machine instead of me personally (hint: call when you know I’ll be at work). I don’t want to talk about my manicure appointment or your dog in first grade, it’s just a simple, polite measure that gives our date that little spin, that little bit of extra that helps you stand out from the crowd. Leaving that information on the machine gives me the benefit of answering it at my leisure.

The Second Date:

After the thank-you call, it’s alright to wait a few days before you call again (“a few” = 3 or 4). When you do, try to be respectful of my time; I’m a busy girl. Be straight-forward and direct. A great opener is something like, “Hey, I just wanted to thank you again for the great evening last weekend, and I was wondering if you had time to get together again maybe next Tuesday?” Now you’ve not only thanked me (thereby complementing me), but you’ve gotten straight to the point of the call. Know what we’re going to do before you call, and give me a general idea of the activities for the date. If I need to dress up (more than I did for the last date), you should let me know. If you’re taking me paddle-boating and haven’t mentioned it, I’ll be pissed when I get splashed in my strappy sandals and sundress. Second dates are hard, because they’re awkward. We don’t know each other tremendously well, so we haven’t quite gotten to the point of “old friends”, and there’s definitely that new-person tension going on. The more relaxed and good-humored you are, the better the date will go. I’ll be taking my cues from you, and if you’re uptight and nervous, I will be, too.

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Re-Emasculation of Western Women

There's a thread going on an online bulletin board I participate in, on how to be a "girly girl". It's surprising to me, that women nowadays have become so engrossed in empowerment, in equal pay and equal rights and clawing their way into the position of Head of Household, that somewhere along the way we've forgotten the inherent strength of femininity.

In the Arabian Gulf, they say the most beautiful parts of a woman are her eyes, hands, and feet; this is based largely on the fact that through cultural dress, those are the only parts exposed. There is, however, a unique beauty in these women. Through their veils and habaias, they express a subtle grace that is unmatched elsewhere in the world.

It got me thinking, though (as these things so often do), about the measures I learned from my Oma about beauty. She was never "pretty", by runway standards, yet when she walked into a room, every head turned. She posessed a quiet confidence that made her stunning.

Eight Rules in Beauty:
Things I learned from my grandmother about
grace, refinement, and poise
(modernized for your reading convenience)

1. Black looks good on every one. Maintain a wardrobe of versatile mix-and match tops and bottoms (slacks and skirts)... blacks and creams and shades of grey, with a few solid-color brights to mix it up.

2. Keep it subtle. You can wear heavy eye make up at night, or dark lipstick, not both. Skirts that ride just below the knee are flirty without being too conservative, and can tease with a bit of leg without showin off the cottage cheese that's accumulated on your thighs over the years. Polkadots, checks and stripes are for children; patterns are best left for those trying to distract and hide.

3. Punctuate. Find some accent pieces to add to your semi-mono-chromatic wardrobe. Get a great true red leather purse to carry at night. It adds a little punch, but still lets you maintain that sleek, put-together look. You can throw a bright scarf on, or a single heavy bangle, or even a thick, chunky necklace if you're feeling feisty... something that works as an accent without being too distracting.

4. Wear practical shoes. I'm not talkin about your mother's sturdy loafers. Shoes that are slinky and strappy are hot, but if you can't stand and walk in them without hobbling, you've ruined the sex-appeal. Practice walking in a pair of shoes before you buy them. Watch your gait in a full-length mirror. If you can't pull off a smooth, graceful strut in those slinky sandals, try something with a slightly lower or broader heel, or a shoe with a similar heel but more support up top. Often, you can get away with a high, skinny heel if you've got more strap to stabalize the shoe and your ankle.

5. Quit with the bling. You're not a rap super-star. One piece of statement jewelry is plenty. There isn't any reason to have diamond chandeliers hanging from your ears, a chunky necklace, four bracelets, and glittering gemstones and gold all the way across your knuckles. If you must accent with jewelry, choose something simple and subtle that doesn't detract from the two-hour hairdo you're sporting.

6. You're going to dinner, not a photo-shoot for Vogue. Trends are... well... trendy, but the refined beauty of a woman who's confidently classic never fades. Stick with what works for you, and leave chasing down the latest fads to teenyboppers who have nothing better to do with their time.

7. Posture is 95% of your first impression. It's impossible to ignore some one who walks with assured confidence. By throwing your shoulders back, holding your head up high, and letting yourself glow, you'll attract and hold more attention than any ruffle-wearing trollop could possibly hope to acquire.

8. Focus on your best asset. Looking sharp is all well and good, but really, he's taking you out to spend time with you, not your Coach handbag. Dressing with quiet sophistication lends itself to highlighting your best attribute... your personality

Sunday, March 12, 2006


I woke up this morning to the scream of tornado sirens. Always starts the morning off right, being forced down to the basement before I've had a chance to pop my morning squat. Nevermind trying to herd together a neurotic dog and two cats, one who thinks she's the devil's own spawn, the other who's afraid of every bump and squeek that goes on in this old house.

Round about the time I'd gathered the phone and the beasties and checked the weather radar on the computer, hail the size of doubled peanuts started sheeting down, covering everything in a layer of pebbled white.

Two minutes after they dragged my groggy butt out of bed, the sirens quieted. The hail stopped, the sun came out, and I heard the safety signal: a bird started singing in the back yard. I'm watching through the front window now, as the kids from the house opposite mine play in the street, throwing bits of hail at one another in between pushing twigs and branches off their dad's car. They're safe in the knowledge that the threat has passed, that life has returned to normal and that there's room again for laughter and games.

This morning's frenzy is a lot like my life's been for the past few months. All hustle and bustle, all bracing for and recovering from disaster. Four months after reconnecting with American soil, life is finally calm more days than it isn't. The worst is over. I've survived the storm.

"It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat." (Theodore Roosevelt, Citizen in a Republic, Sorbonne, Paris; April 23, 1910

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Rag

Disclaimer: For all the guys out there who get squicked every time they hear the word, "menstrual", I'd suggest you skip this post.
If I hear one more male friend say he wants to be a woman, I'm going to scream. We're not talking a squeeky lil squirt of a squeal, here... we're talking all-out horror-flick-style burst-yo-tonsils SCREAM!

"But if I had boobs, I could sit at home and play with them all day! You guys have a clit AND a G-spot! And women get multiple orgasms!"

Let me help y'all out a little with this...

1. Boobs: Boobs ain't all they're cracked up to be. They get grabbed, groped, fondled, chewed on, pinched, poked, and generally abused for the amusement of the opposite sex. They cause stains across the front of our blouses from food and beverage, and they're the first part of a sweater to ruin from snagging.
They're trophies and bragging rights for our boyfriends, and the topic of conversation among his friends entirely too often for our comfort. We have to wear rubber band harnesses that squeeze the rib cage all day long, in a desperate attempt to keep them from becoming prematurely un-perked. We're expected to let another human being draw their life substance through them, after which they'll be saggy and wrinkly and of absolutely no use or desire to any one, anywhere. And, if we're really, really lucky, every 28 days we get to feel like some one used our chest as a punching bag.

2. The Vagina: Forget the vagina monologues. Vaginas are hell, wrapped in pretty pink skin, given a mucous problem, and planted between our legs. They're messy, complicated little things with mile-high attitudes; they don't do what they're told, when they're told to do it. Over half the population doesn't know how to operate them, and a lot of the ones who do are too impatient or self-revolving to take the time to do what needs to be done to make them functional. On top of that, for a handful of days every month, our uterus goes into seizure and spews blood all over everything we own. The one and only way to prevent this is to stuff the vagina with wads of cotton and walk around with a maxi-pad the size of a telephone book glued to the inside of our underwear; it's similar to wearing an adult diaper, but without the protective elastic legbands. During this time, we feel like the mass of our lower organs are trying to claw their way to the outside world, straight through our abdominal cavity. One of the best cures for this gnawing, consuming pain is stimulation (that means sex), but guess what? YOU, who think you want one of these natural miracles so you can sit around and diddle it all day long, have this concept that periods are gross, and won't bring your brick within 20 yards of us while we're under current.

3. The Myth of the Mulitple O: I know you may find this hard to believe, but if your girl's having an orgasm every time you two jump in the sack, it's not confirmation that you're Superman in bed... it means she's faking it. The female orgasm is a complex, slow-building thing. On top of that, it's 80% mental, which means that just because you're pushing the right button(s) doesn't mean she's gonna climax. Does that mean you need to give up on the clitorous and g-spot? Absolutely not. What you need to understand is that a lot of us have a hard enough time having one orgasm with you (a huge distraction) in the bed, much less one after another after another. If we are fortunate enough to have the ability to multi-O, it's usually something we can only draw out of ourselves alone at night, shrouded in complete darkness, while fantasizing about your best friend.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Love Wisdom Project

A friend of a friend is doing a thing for NPR. They're going around the city asking random strangers one simple, complex question:

"How do you know when you're in love?"

In order to answer the question, one must first secure a definition of love.

Love n. 1.
A deep, tender, ineffable feeling of affection and solicitude toward a person, such as that arising from kinship, recognition of attractive qualities, or a sense of underlying oneness.
2. A feeling of intense desire and attraction toward a person with whom one is disposed to make a pair; the emotion of sex and romance.
3. Sexual passion. Sexual intercourse. A love affair.
4. An intense emotional attachment, as for a pet or treasured object.
5. A person who is the object of deep or intense affection or attraction; beloved. Often used as a term of endearment.
6. An expression of one's affection: Send him my love.
7. A strong predilection or enthusiasm: a love of language.
8. The object of such an enthusiasm: The outdoors is her greatest love.

Katherine Hepburn said, "Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get, it's what you are expected to give -- which is everything."
So love is when you feel the need to give everything you have, everything you are, to another? According to the Joyce Brothers, "The best proof of love is trust." In order to love, we must trust, but does trust always indicate love?

Lydia Maria Price touted love as a miracle drug. "The cure for all ills and wrongs, the cares, the sorrows and the crimes of humanity, all lie in the one word 'love'. It is the devine vitality that everywhere produces and restores life." Love, then, lightens the burdens of life, and allows our cares to slip away. This hasn't been my experience. There are moments of elation, moments of soaring exhuberance where all is right with the world, punctuated by ache and sorrow and need and longing.

Do we love through nature, or, as Albert Ellis put it, is "[t]he art of love... largely the art of persistence"? Is love merely an extension of need? "Immature love says: 'I love you because I need you.' Mature love says, 'I need you because I love you.'" (Erich Fromm) Are we defined by love? As stated by Charles Augustin Sainte-Bueve, "Tell me who admires you and loves you, and I will tell you who you are." Before we love, are we nothing? No one?

I'm reminded of a scene from a touching movie, about an obsessive-compulsive composer and a waitress, who fall in love. She demands that he say something nice to her, to which he responds: "You make me want to be a better man." This, to me, defines love.

In response to the question: How do you know when you're in love?

"I know I'm in love when the presence of another inspires me to be a better person."

So... how do you know when you're in love? You're welcome to leave a comment here, or you can mail a narrative response to:

The Love Wisdom Project
PO Box 721
Smithville, MO 64089.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

That's a Spade!

In some restaurant, somewhere near you:
"I'm sorry, but I can't serve you."
"What? You've got plenty of tables. Of course you can serve me."
"No, I really can't. You'll have to leave."
"Because you're African."
"I'm not African, I'm American! I was born and raised here!"
"Well, you're black."
"That doesn't make me African!"
"It's close enough. You look African. AIDS came from Africa, and you probably have AIDS. I can't serve you. You have to leave."
No American in their right mind would sit by and allow this interaction to take place.

Let's call a spade a spade, shall we?
n : the intolerance and prejudice of a bigot

n. One who is strongly partial to one's own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ.

adj: Opposed to the inclusion or participation of those different from oneself, especially those of a different racial, ethnic, or social background.
Right then... now that that's out of the way, and we're all on the same page...

Why is it okay to express bigotry towards Arabs, but not blacks?

Why can't we say:
"You're black, so you must have AIDS!"

but we can say:
"You're Arab, so you must be linked to a terrorist organization!"

I don't intend to put a lot of political garbage on here, because if you wanted to read that type of thing, you'd be somewhere else. This
Dubai Ports mess bugs me, though. Racism is racism, no matter what the politics are. No one should feed people's real fear of harm to further their own position. It's just wrong.
"There are plenty of good reasons for fighting," I said, "but no good reason ever to have without reservation, to imagine that God Almighty Himself hates with you, too. Where's evil? It's that large part of every man that wants to hate without limit, that wants to hate with God on its side. It's that part of every man that finds all kinds of ugliness so attractive." (Kurt Vonnegut, Mother Night)

Good Vibrations

Found out a couple weeks ago that a local group I dig is "on hiatus". We all know what that means... they're probably not coming back, which is a damn shame. Apparently, they just couldn't get along.

The singer, though, has gone off and done some of his own accoustic stuff, which I really like. The recording isn't terribly fantastic, but he makes up for it. Beyond that, the music's downloadable for free... can't beat that. I'll hit one of his local gigs here within the next few months, to lend support and all that.

Gotta support the local music scene, yanno?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Subtle Sacrifice

I heard on the radio today that Lent's about to kick in. I'm not terribly aware of these things, since I'm not the church-going sort. However, an idea came to me as I listened to people in New Orleans discuss what they're giving up for Lent. The #1 thing mentioned in the interview?


They're giving up feul for the fire of misery that threatens to consume them every day. That isn't to say it isn't difficult, only that what they're sacrificing is something any loving diety would gladly have them give up forever.

It got me thinking, though... what if, instead of looking for something we could easily do without, we all gave up something that's subtle, but damaging. (Hey, if Christmas can be a non-religeous, commercial holiday, why can't Lent?) I'm not talking about smoking or alcohol. We all know those things are bad for us, and, despite your best intentions, you know by the end of tommorow you'll be sucking down twice the nicotine you would have yesterday. Here are a couple of things that would fit into what I'm talking about:

  • Self-depreciating language: a lot of people I know (especially women) say things like, "Man, my butt's big" or "God, I'm stupid". When you hear something over and over, it becomes true... at least in your head. What if this month, you made specific effort to say, instead, "I'm not going to eat out this week, and by Sunday, I bet these jeans will fit better!" or, "Well that wasnt the brightest thing I've done all day! Won't be doing that again!"
  • Treating service staff like they're machines: If you've ever been in the service industry, you know that there are customers who are ass holes because they really do mean to go after you, and there are customers who are ass holes because they just don't seem to realize that you're a human being. Sure, leaving a solid tip is a compliment to wait staff, but nothing makes up for treating a person like they aren't worth the effort to make eye contact or speak directly to. When you're going through the checkout line at the grocery store, make a specific effort to look up from your wallet, smile at the girl, and respond to her, "Have a nice day!" with a, "Hey, you too!" It takes minimal effort on your part, and it might make her day.
  • Saying, "Because I said so, that's why" to your kids: I'll never understand why parents do this. It makes sense to me that you'd want to encourage your children to ask questions when they don't understand something, rather than just blindly obey. It also makes sense to me that when they say, "Why?", that if you don't have an answer, then maybe you should rethink your initial response. There's a reason they can't do something, or should do something. Telling them the reason helps them develop their logic and reasoning skills, and it makes them free thinkers. Which sounds better?
    • "I can't ride my bike through traffic because cars can't always see me and I could get hurt." OR
    • "I can't ride my bike through traffic because mom said so... but she's not looking right now..."
  • Not taking the time to kiss your spouse good morning and good night: If you're not doing this you should be. Did you know that couples who kiss each other "hello" and "good bye" live longer? A quick kiss conveys so many things: I love you, I appreciate you, I'll be thinking of you while I'm gone/I thought of you all day. It's so important, and so easy... there's really no reason not to.
  • Not waving to your neighbors when you're both in the yard at the same time: Again, how difficult is it to raise your hand, wiggle it a little, smile, and say, "Hey, Bob!" Do you even know your neighbor's name? If the only time you talk to them is when their dog is barking, you're missing a golden opportunity. People are much more apt to be courteous of your space, physical and mental, when they have a connection to you. I bet if you'd taken the time to get to know Bob a little, to stop and talk to him, ask him about his wife, congratulate him for his kid getting accepted to that prestigeous college, that he'd be a lot more inclined to bring his dog in when it barks, BEFORE you have to ask, simply because he knows you. Today's a great day to make that connection, don't you think?
  • Telling your dog, "Go lay down" every time he comes up to be petted: Dogs are physical manifestations of unconditional love. They are always happy to see you, always content to listen to you babble on about how difficult your day is, or how much of a pain in the butt your significant other is being today, or how worried you are that you're going to get laid off. They never judge, even when you're wrong. All they ask in return is a warm, safe, dry place to sleep, enough food and water to sustain themselves, and a little attention now and then. Beyond that, playing with dogs makes you live a longer, happier, healthier life. How cool is that?
What are some things you do that you shouldn't? Would you be able (and willing) to give them up for a month? Do you think that after a month, you'd go back to doing them?